Police raid homes in One Connect finances probe

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Detectives probing alleged financial irregularities at the controversial County Hall company One Connect Limited have swooped on three addresses in the North West.

Lancashire Police say they have executed warrants to search premises in Southport, Knowsley and Fulwood in Preston. But no arrests have been made.

The warrants are the latest development in a high level investigation into the running of One Connect, a company set up jointly by Lancashire County Council and telecom giant BT to run council services.

A police spokesman confirmed the searches followed a referral from County Hall “made last year outlining concerns in relation to a number of financial irregularities.”

A statement said: “No-one has been arrested at this stage. We remain at the relatively early stages of the investigation into these matters and so it would be inappropriate to comment any further for the moment.”

The One Connect probe followed an internal County Hall report which raised concerns about the awarding of contracts by the company.

County Council chief executive Phil Halsall was suspended from his £190,000-a-year post after the ruling Labour group discovered one of the men instrumental in setting up One Connect, David McElhinney, who was boss of Liverpool Direct, had been paid more than £600,000 for his work. Mr Halsall later resigned.

County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of the Conservative group in power at County Hall when One Connect was set up, has steadfastly argued the investigation was politically motivated.

Coun Driver, a former Preston city councillor who lives in Fulwood, last night denied his home had been one of those searched by police.

“Absolutely not,” he told the Evening Post. “I have always made it clear right from day one, when the chief executive Phil Halsall was suspended, that I would welcome a thorough investigation into what has gone on.

“I have always said I am prepared to help in any way I can to get to the bottom of all this.

“The report against Phil Halsall was an absolutely scandalous report in terms of making unsubstantiated statements and innuendo.

“I have not had a visit from the police, my house has not been searched. And I am more than happy, if I am contacted, to help with the inquiry.

“There are other people who live in Fulwood who are connected with Lancashire County Council or One Connect Limited. It’s not for me to say who they are. If one or more of them have been visited I don’t know.”

One Connect, set up in a bid to save the County Council £400m over 10 years, is now in its death throes after LCC revealed it was scrapping its deal with BT.