Opposition leader slams Lancashire County Council’s £10m overspend

County Coun Geoff Driver
County Coun Geoff Driver

The leader of Lancashire County Council’s Tory opposition group has criticised the council for an overspend on services provided by BT Lancashire Services.

The company, which supplies IT and other services to the council, was created following the scrapping of the controversial partnership with One Connect Ltd in 2014.

County Coun Geoff Driver, who established the council’s One Connect partnership with BT in 2011, spoke out after the councillors considered the county council’s accounts for 2014/15 – with accountants noting an overspend of £10.4m on budgets for services provided by BTLS.

Coun Driver, a former leader of the council, said: “That £10.4m overspend in 2014/15 is almost exactly the overspend in 2013/14.

“That means that in two years since this administration scrapped the One Connect contract they’ve overspent their budget by the best part of £21m which is part of an even bigger figure the people of Lancashire have had to pay for the political decision to scrap One Connect.”

Deputy council leader David Borrow noted that several hundred county council staff are seconded to BTLS and said: “There are several legacy issues from when One Connect ended and BTLS was set up that we are still working our way through.”

A county council spokesman said the anticipated overspend had been flagged up to the council’s cabinet in August with elements of the overspend offset by reserves.

He said: “An updated report will go to cabinet in November, by which stage we expect to have more accurately aligned our spend to service budgets, which should significantly reduce the reported variance.”

A report to councillors said the most significant cause for overspend was “due to Cumbria Lancashire Education online, payroll and ICT income levels being below budget.”

In May 2014 the council had had 499 contracts in place, with an annual expenditure of £529m.

Lancashire Constabulary’s long running investigation into alleged financial irregularities at One Connect Ltd is ongoing.

A police spokesman confirmed: “This remains a complex ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.”