THE FORMER leader of Lancashire County Council, County Coun Geoff Driver, is taking legal advice after police dropped their long-running investigations into his role with controversial company One Connect Limited (OCL).
Lancashire Constabulary has told him he is no longer suspected of any criminal involvement, following a two-year investigation into allegations concerning the council’s joint venture with BT.
Coun Driver, now leader of the council’s Tory opposition group, said: “I have been informed by Lancashire Constabulary that after their lengthy investigation into allegations made by Lancashire County Council, they are satisfied that I am entirely innocent of any wrong-doing.”
Lancashire Constabulary said: “Following lengthy and thorough inquiries we can now confirm that Coun Driver is no longer suspected of any criminal involvement as part of this investigation. It is important to stress this remains a complex and ongoing criminal inquiry and it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time, other than to thank Coun Driver for his co-operation.”
Coun Driver is now having talks with his legal advisers about “the best course of action” to take against those who made allegations against him. At one stage Coun Driver’s computer was removed by police, with his permission, from his office at County Hall.
One Connect was set up in May 2011, when Coun Driver was the council’s leader, to run various county council functions, with the aim of saving the council £400m over 10 years. It had around 800 staff seconded to it from Lancashire County Council and BT.
But in August 2013 the council’s chief executive Phil Halsall was suspended over allegations about the awarding of a £5m fleet maintenance contract. He left the authority by mutual consent and a disciplinary investigation into his conduct was dropped.
Salary payments of £500k-plus, made to former OCL chief executive David McElhinney were the subject of a council investigation and a complaint to police.
County Coun David Borrow, Deputy Leader of Lancashire County Council, said police inquiries were not something for elected councillors to be involved in.
: ”It’s something for officers to cooperate with. It’s not something we should get involved in in any way.”