Tories vote to stick with colourful leader

Coun Geoff Driver
Coun Geoff Driver
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Preston’s Geoff Driver has survived a rumoured rebellion to be re-elected as leader of the Conservatives on Lancashire County Council.

The authority’s 35-strong Tory group voted to back the colourful politician despite a turbulent year in opposition at County Hall.

Coun Driver got the go-ahead to continue in the top job at the group’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Coun Michael Green, who represents Leyland South West and is the group’s secretary and returning officer, revealed: “Councillor Driver stood for re-election and he was re-elected. He has the support of the group for the year ahead.”

But Coun Green declined to reveal the voting figures saying: “Those sort of details are confidential within the group.”

Coun Driver was awarded the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June for his services to local government, just three weeks after his Conservative team were toppled from power at County Hall. Labour took control after doing a deal with the authority’s six Liberal Democrat councillors. And the alliance led to an acrimonious year both inside and outside the council chamber.

Controversy over the ill-fated Tory-inspired One Connect Limited partnership culminated in a police investigation which is still continuing. Chief executive Phil Halsall was suspended and then left his £195,000-a-year job “by mutual consent.” One Connect was subsequently scrapped.

Three houses - one in Fulwood - were visited by police in connection with the inquiry. Coun Driver denied to the Evening Post that his home had been one of them.

And then the outspoken Tory leader had to issue an apology after being accused him of a foul-mouthed rant during a council meeting. An official complaint was lodged about his behaviour and Coun Driver later admitted: “I did mouth something to one of the Liberal Democrats. I shouldn’t have done. He wound me up.”