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Details of Lancs chief's suspension emerge

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The suspension of Lancashire CC chief Phil Halsall relates to a decision to award a £5m fleet services contract to BT, it has emerged.

LGC reported on Tuesday that Mr Halsall (left) had been suspended from the role pending a disciplinary investigation.

It has since emerged that the council’s minority Labour administration, which took control from the Conservatives following the May elections, commissioned the law firm DAC Beachcroft to review the decision to award the contract – a decision that was taken just days before the election by Lancashire CC’s then-leader Geoff Driver (Con).

LGC understands the review document, which the council is keeping confidential, did not contain any specific evidence of wrongdoing but it did raise questions about the decision to award the contract.  

Council leader Jennifer Mein (Lab) told LGC: “There was enough information in the report to make the cross-party urgency committee feel it warranted an in-depth investigation.

“The committee thought the right thing to do was to suspend the chief executive pending that investigation.”

Cllr Mein said the suspension of Mr Halsall was “considered to be a neutral stance”.

However, Cllr Driver told LGC the suspension was “absolutely disgraceful”.

“There is no evidence in the report that justifies the suspension of the chief executive. It’s absolutely disgraceful,” he said. “Halsall is an exemplary chief executive who has done a marvellous job for the people of Lancashire.”

Asked about the process of the decision to award the contract to BT, he said he was “convinced” that “nothing significant or material” occured that was not in line with regulations.

LGC understands that just two firms bid for the fleet services contract and that while BT’s bid pledged to save £900,000 per year, the rival bid offered just £25,000 per year in savings.  

Lancashire CC will now appoint a designated independent person whose remit will be to investigate Mr Halsall’s role in the decision to award the contract to BT.

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