Council leader 'bans' chief executive and senior staff

County councillor Geoff Driver
County councillor Geoff Driver

The leader of Lancashire County Council has 'banned' senior authority staff from attending briefing meetings with him.

Coun Geoff Driver is understood to have requested LCC's chief executive Jo Turton and four other senior officers contact him on e-mail instead.

Meetings of the full council and its cabinet will not be affected, a county hall spokesperson said.

Leader of the opposition Labour group Coun Azhar Ali has written to the secretary of state for local government Sajid Javid criticising the move which appears to expose a significant rift between senior political and civil service staff.

Coun Ali has asked for Mr Javed to intervene, saying LCC is being made to appear a "national laughing stock" and Coun Driver should "withdraw his edict or resign".

He said: "I don't think this is an acceptable way to run what is the third or fourth largest authority in the country.

"We are worried about the impact of this on public services which is the most important issue here where we have to find huge saving in the next few years.

"My group is focusing on being a constructive opposition and putting the people of Lancashire and our public services first before the petty power struggle with the dysfunctional leadership."

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: "We can confirm that these are the operational arrangements that have been put in place by the Leader of the County Council."

Coun Driver was confirmed as leader of the council just days after he was arrested and questioned by police in connection with the One Connect scandal in May.

The Conservative council leader was not available for comment on Wednesday morning.

The senior officers not allowed to brief the leader are chief executive Jo Turton, director of governance, finance and public services Ian Young, director of development and corporate services Eddie Sutton, head of internal audit Ruth Lowry and director of corporate services Lisa Kitto.