Lancashire County Council steps up One Connect investigation
7:00pm Saturday 28th December 2013 in NW
LANCASHIRE county council’s cabinet has authorised a stepping up of its investigation into the authority’s controversial One Connect contract with BT.
The two officials conducting the probe, originally announced in November, will now get external legal and financial help for their work.
The final meeting of the cabinet of 2013 approved the upgrade, welcomed by Tory opposition leader Geoff Driver who signed the original deal when he was in power at County Hall.
He has called for the investigation to be handed over to a team completely independent of the county council.
It follows former chief executive Phil Halsall resigning after being suspended over a contract with BT for fleet vehicle maintenance, the abandonment of a contract for community telecare alarms and the revealation that the chief executive of One Connect David McElhinney was paid more than £600,000 for two years work.
The investigation will look at the performance and value for money of the arrangement including a shortfall of £6.6m in procurement savings for 2012/13 and 2013/14.
It will also examine the abandonment of the Tunstall Healthcare contract for telecare alarms and the payments to Mr McElhinney.
The resolution approved by the Cabinet said: “It was reported that these issues were of significant concern to the County Council and raised questions as to whether the partnership with BT is securing the intended benefits for the County Council.”
County Labour leader Jennifer Mein said: "The cabinet report listed a number of issues of which we were already aware, as well as information about the recent performance of One Connect.
“It is important that the partnership delivers the intended benefits to the county council and people in Lancashire. A recommendation was made to seek external legal and financial assistance, which helps to support this process."
Coun Driver said: “I welcome this investigation so the people of Lancashire can find out whether the One Connect deal provided value for money.
“It should be totally independent, not conducted by two county council officers with external assistance.”
Events concerning Mr Halsall and Mr McElhinney are currently the subject of police investigations.
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