FOUR men have been arrested in connection with the long-running One Connect police inquiry into Lancashire County Council contracts.

They are believed to include the authority's leader designate Geoff Driver, who cancelled all his official appointments this morning.

The other three are understood to be former County Hall chief executive Phil Halsall, David McElhinney, who was chief executive of the now defunct One Connect and its sister organisation Liverpool Connect, and Ged Fitzgerald, the current Liverpool City Council chief executive and former Lancashire County Council chief executive.

County Cllr Driver, who led the Conservatives to victory in the local elections earlier this month, is due to be installed as leader of the giant authority on Thursday.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said yesterday afternoon: "Four men have been arrested this morning in connection with an investigation into conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

"The men, aged 72, 55, 58 and 56, were arrested at addresses in Preston and Merseyside.

"The arrests are part of a wider long-running investigation into allegations of fraud, although none of the men have been arrested today on suspicion of fraud.

"All of the men have been arrested on suspicion of Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice and Witness Intimidation.

"They will be interviewed.

"We will make no further comment at this time."

County Cllr Driver, who has vigorously denied all claims of impropriety concerning the One Connect deal between the county council and telecoms giant BT, was not immediately contactable.

Deputy leader of the Conservative Group and Ribble Valley Valley North-East representative Albert Atkinson said last night: "I am shocked at the arrests.

"If one of those arrested is Geoff Driver I am even more shocked in particular as I thought he had been exonerated.

"I have been unable to contact him today and his wife Yvonne rang County Hall and cancelled all his appointments at 10am."

The four were understood be be being questioned at Skelmersdale Police station.

The police investigation into Lancashire County Council’s One Connect contract with BT has been running for more than three years and cost £2million.

A total of 22 officers and staff have been involved into the probe which also covers a similar deal involving Liverpool City Council.

In November 2013, the police launched the inquiry, initially into the tendering of a £5m fleet contract with One Connect Ltd which led to the resignation of Mr Halsall.

It has examined the wider partnership with BT, including how Mr McElhinney, received two lump sums of £231,709 and £275,888 from the county council in 2013, apparently without the knowledge of its treasurer Gill Kilpatrick.

In 2014, Labour councillors, who were in charge of county hall from 2013 to 2017, cancelled the controversial deal signed by Cllr Driver's previous Tory in administration in 2011.