Contract corruption claims are 'nonsense' says suspended Lancashire County Council boss

Blackpool Citizen: Phil Halsall Phil Halsall

THE suspended chief executive of Lancashire County Council has vowed to fight to keep his job amid allegations of corruption.

Phil Halsall was suspended on Monday after it was alleged that favouritism was shown towards BT in the bidding process for the council’s £5million fleet maintainance service contract.

He is now subject to a disciplinary investagion, and an independent review is underway into the decision to award the contract to BT, and the role of One Connect, which was down to manage the service.

In an email to friends and colleagues outside the council he said: “You may have seen media coverage in the last couple of days regarding the decision of a council committee to suspend my employment.

“Sadly, this was on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations that I had not seen prior to the meeting nor had they been discussed with me.

“Suffice it to say I believe it all to be complete nonsense. I have already started to pursue my reinstatement vigorously and I expect to be back soon.”

He was also keen to urge colleagues not to distance themselves from the council following his suspension.

In his email he said: “In this difficult time I trust you will continue to work with the county council for the benefit of the people of Lancashire.”

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle was quick to defend Mr Halsall, saying he was ‘staggered’ by the allegations. He said: “I don’t know a great deal about it but I’ve always found him to be an extremely professional and proactive chief executive of the county council, and totally committed to Lancashire.

“I was extremely suprised to hear what had happened to him. In my dealings with him he always acted with openess and transparency, and everything was always above board.

“I hope he succeeds in his challenge to the county council.”

SUSPENSION 'LEFT ME SICK'

LANCASHIRE County Council leader Jenny Mein has told how the decision to suspend the authority’s chief executive left her feeling ‘devastated’ and ‘sick’.

On Monday Phil Halsall was told to take time off from his job pending a disciplinary investigation into his role in awarding a £5 million contract for maintaining the organisations’ vehicle fleet.

He has since complained he found out from the media that he had been suspended.

Coun Mein, who took over as leader from Tory Geoff Driver less than three months ago, said: “This has been a huge and traumatic experience.

“It’s not what I expected so soon after taking control.

“The decision to suspend Mr Halsall is a neutral decision in local government terms. It’s to protect the county council and protect him while the investigation takes place.

“It’s not a pre-judgement of the investigation. The external review found something that had needed looking into and that is what we are doing.

“I am devastated by this. I feel sick.

“He has been a terrific chief executive and has done some terrific things on economic development.”

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