Council chairman: I did not apologise for ‘mistake’

Photo Neil Cross'Lancashire County Council Elections at County Hall'Geoff Driver
Photo Neil Cross'Lancashire County Council Elections at County Hall'Geoff Driver
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A new row has erupted after councillors staged a mass walkout at County Hall.

The council’s chairman, Labour Coun Kevin Ellard, has refuted claims he apologised for making a ‘mistake’ which caused 35 Tory members to storm out of a full council meeting on Thursday.

Tories were angered that Coun Ellard stopped their leader Geoff Driver from speaking about the One Connect partnership, which overspent by almost £1m a month during its final year.

Coun Ellard ruled the matter was “sub judice” - a police investigation is currently underway into allegations of mismanagement - and discussions could prejudice proceedings.

Now, in a statement to the Evening Post, Tories claim Coun Ellard approached Coun Driver after the meeting having “admitted that he made a mistake in not allowing Coun Driver to speak” and “has apologised to the Conservative leader.”

Coun Graham Gooch said: “Coun Ellard is a decent and honourable man whose has had the courage and good grace to admit his mistake so we can move on and hope this action will not have to be repeated.”

A Labour Group spokesman said: “Coun Ellard denies Coun Driver’s assertions that he retracted or ‘apologised’ for the ruling he made in his role as impartial chair.”

He added that the walk out saw Conservatives “forfeit their responsibilities to represent residents throughout the course of an extremely important meeting. They didn’t walk out on the council, they walked out on the people of Lancashire.”

Tories insist there was an apology, that sub judice did not apply, and Coun Driver was stopped from speaking on other matters beforehand.