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Lancashire County Council dismiss calls for leader to be suspended

Conservative Geoff Driver has been arrested by police as part of a fraud probe

Coun Geoff Driver

Lancashire County Council (LCC) has dismissed a call for leader Geoff Driver to be suspended from his role pending the completion of a police investigation.

Coun Driver was named as one of four men arrested in May by detectives investigating allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and intimidating witnesses.

The arrests came as part of a police probe, codenamed Operation Sheridan, into allegations of fraud.

The four men, who the Liverpool Echo report as including former LCC chief executive Phil Halsall and Liverpool City Council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald - have been released on bail until November.

Lancashire Association of Trades Unions Councils (LATUC) asked for Coun Driver to be suspended after Liverpool City Council suspended Mr Fitzgerald, 55, earlier this month.

Secretary Peter Billington, of East Crescent, Accrington, said: “The complaint concerns the council’s inaction in relation to the post of leader of the county council being held by County Councillor Geoff Driver in a situation where another council has taken relevant action.

“We consider that following the decision of Liverpool City Council on September 18, 2017 to suspend Ged Fitzgerald, the current Liverpool City Council chief executive and former Lancashire County Council chief executive, Lancashire County Council should review whether it is acceptable for Councillor Driver to continue to hold the position of leader at this time.

“Our complaint makes no judgement against County Councillor Driver himself but concerns the county council’s lack of action in considering whether he should hold the post of leader in the current situation.”

A spokesperson for LCC said: “I can confirm that we have received the complaint from the LATUC.

“It does not fall within the terms of the Corporate Complaints Procedure, which relates to services provided by LCC, therefore no further action will be taken. For clarity, Ged Fitzgerald is a council officer whilst Geoff Driver is an elected county councillor.”

A Lancashire Police spokesperson said: “All four men have been rebailed until November 22.”

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