COUNTY council chiefs have denied claims that they are seeking to ‘privatise’ their welfare rights service with business partners BT.

Ex-county councillor Chris Cheetham has launched a petition opposing moves to transfer the service to One Connect, the county council’s partnership with the telecoms giant.

But county council leader Geoff Driver has said that the system is in dire need of modernisation for the 21st century.

Mr Cheetham said: “I was appalled by this proposal when I became aware of a letter sent to council staff.

“The county council’s service has been around for over 20 years and has provided advice to thousands of residents when dealing with the benefits system.

“It has helped bring hundreds of thousands of pounds into Lancashire by helping people claim what they are entitled to.

“But now the council wants to get BT to make profits out of the most disadvantaged people in the county at their time of greatest need.”

Coun Driver said that under the service his Conservative administration inherited, different elements of the benefits service were not communicating with each other.

He added: “We believe there are around 1,000 cases where children are entitled to free school meals but are not receiving them, so we are going through the records and updating the system.”

Coun Driver said that from April the authority would also be taking responsibility for social fund applications, giving more impetus for the proposed changes.

“One Connect is not going to be making money at the expense of the service – we will be looking to improve and increase what the service has to offer,” he said.

Mr Cheetham’s petition can be reached via e-mail at