Ex-leader apologises after expletive row

Geoff Driver
Geoff Driver
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The former leader of Lancashire County Council has been forced to apologise after councillors accused him of a foul-mouthed rant at a political rival.

Elected members claimed Conservative group leader Coun Geoff Driver told them to “**** off” at this week’s full council meeting.

Now an official complaint has been lodged, and County Hall bosses are investigating what action to take.

Coun Driver has apologised for his behaviour, saying he was “provoked”.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “I did mouth something to one of the Liberal Democrats I shouldn’t have done.

“He wound me up, I shouldn’t have allowed myself to be wound up and I apologise.”

Coun Driver, CBE, added: “It is so puerile it’s beyond belief.”

The alleged outburst, aimed at Coun Bill Winlow, came after Coun Driver was referred to as “councillor dither and defer” by Lib Dem councillor David Whipp.

Coun Driver said: “It is puerile and infantile of the Liberal Democrats to think they can dish out the insults and when somebody responds they go crying to teacher like little school boys.”

He added: “The county council has far more important things to worry about.”

Members also claimed Coun Driver said “you too” towards Coun Whipp, following the “**** off” comment.

The row at Thursday’s County Hall meeting, in which Coun Driver was told to apologise, comes just months after he refused to apologise for swearing at Coun Winlow during a post-election confrontation.

Lib Dem Coun Winlow said: “The view I would express is that it is not appropriate for a senior politician to behave in this way and to treat colleagues with such major disrespect.

“I have never seen any politician use language like that at a council meeting or anywhere else.”

He branded the events as “childish playground behaviour” and added: “He ought to know better.”

He said: “I very much regret that Lancashire politics should be dragged to this level.”

The row, which sparked from a discussion about voluntary redundancies, took place just hours after the civic funeral of Sir Tom Finney.

Coun Winlow said: “I think it’s very sad that on the day we are praising such a gentleman as Sir Tom Finney, that this sort of thing should disfigure the day.”

Fellow Lib Dem Coun Dorothy Lord has now made a formal complaint about the incident.

She said: “I think it is just absolutely unacceptable. I do hope that somebody takes some further action.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “I can confirm that an official complaint has been received. The process for dealing with any complaint is that it will initially be considered by the council’s monitoring officer or deputy monitoring officer who will consider if the complaint can be dismissed with no further action, can be resolved informally, or warrants a formal investigation.”