Lancashire

Lancashire County Council One Connect: £2m probe into contract

County Hall Image copyright Stephen McKay
Image caption Liverpool councillor Richard Kemp is urging police to take action and "speed up"

A police investigation into allegations of financial irregularities over a council contract has cost £2m, said a police crime and commissioner.

Lancashire County Council referred a senior officer's conduct over the tendering of a £5m fleet contract with One Connect Ltd to police in 2013.

Liverpool City Council's contract with Liverpool Direct Ltd is also being examined as part of the investigation.

A Liverpool councillor is urging police to take action and "speed up justice".

Lancashire County councillor Bill Winlow and leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool Richard Kemp, have been calling for Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw to reveal the cost of the investigation and provide details on its progress.

Mr Grunshaw said 22 police officers are involved in the "complex" probe which is "currently ongoing".

Preston West Liberal Democrat councillor Mr Winlow, chair of Lancashire County Council's (LCC) executive scrutiny committee, said: "The fact police are directing a resource of this size into this investigation from other policing priorities in Lancashire reveals the complexity of the investigation and the scale of the necessary researches."

Councillor Kemp said: "Whilst justice must take its course it is also true that justice delayed is justice denied.

"We urge police to speed up the inquiry so that wrong doing can be made public and those who benefited made to pay."

He added, in their experience the probe which was launched in November 2013 was "the most extensive and expensive inquiry ever made into local councils".

Analysis by BBC Radio Lancashire's political reporter Mike Stevens

This has come to light after councillors Bill Winlow and Richard Kemp asked for the information from Lancashire's police and crime commissioner Clive Grunshaw.

Mr Grunshaw's take on the matter is that the investigation is complex in nature and therefore - he says - it's important the force is given the opportunity to conduct inquiries properly.

He says because it's a live investigation, it's inappropriate for him to comment any further.

I've spoken to a few different members from across the political spectrum and what they seem to agree on is that they don't want this to be about criticising the police.

They say it's about highlighting the fact that this investigation is taking up police resources - at a time when we all know they're precious and force's budgets are stretched.

From what I understand though, what councillors want to know is whether or not there has been any wrongdoing and if so... when is it likely people will be held to account?

LCC has declined to comment as it is an "ongoing investigation".

The authority's neutrally suspended chief executive Phil Halsall left LCC in October 2013 by "mutual consent".

He had been suspended in August 2013 pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation.

The deal to run the council's fleet services had been agreed in April of that year by the Conservative administration.

The decision was called in by county councillors and put on hold then revoked on 15 August shortly after Labour took control of the authority.

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