September 26th, 2016

Delay after residents complain of ‘racism’ slurs by Coventry Labour councillors

Updated: 4:47 pm, May 07, 2015

OUTRAGED residents accused of making ‘racist’ comments and being compared with Nazi Germany by Coventry Labour councillors have accused the council and Labour party of kicking their formal complaints into touch for political reasons.

Two residents opposed to housing on Greenbelt in Keresley lodged formal complaints three weeks ago with the national Labour Party and Coventry City Council regarding the conduct of Labour councillors David Galliers and Rachel Lancaster.

The residents now fear the outcome is being deliberately delayed to avoid further political fall-out before elections on May 7.

As we have reported, they vehemently deny racism, after concerns were expressed about pressures from immigration on public services, housing and the Greenbelt.

A third Labour councillor, Kevin Maton faced a council investigation and issued a written apology to another resident and Greenbelt campaigner for allegedly calling him a ‘stupid ignorant t***’ in off-the-cuff remarks caught on camera by the resident’s wife at a public meeting, and for wrongly publicly branding him a UKIP supporter on Twitter.

The incidents have prompted comparisons with former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s off-mic gaffe in Rochdale in 2010 election campaigning, when he accused pensioner Gillian Duffy of being ‘bigoted’ over her concerns about immigration.

Labour leaders Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and other party frontbenchers have since repeatedly said party members were previously wrong to brand concerns about immigration and pressures on housing and services as ‘racist’ or bigoted.

Coun Lancaster, a council cabinet member, took to Twitter to publicly accuse ‘members of Keresley PC’ (parish council) of making ‘racist comments’. Following the complaints, her tweets have been removed.

Councillor Galliers had written a letter published in a Coventry newspaper which compared Keresley Parish Council chair Sandra Camwell’s views with Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa.

Mrs Camwell had gone further in stating the government should ‘shut the borders’, at least until there was a better understanding of pressure on services.

She said this week: “They seem to be running scared of the issue. What are they afraid of?

“I am offended by these disgraceful accusations of racism and facism and am disappointed with their lethargic reaction so far. It should be a straightforward investigation. The evidence has been published by the Press and reproduced from Twitter.

“People are already judging them over the delay. They now have six weeks before the election. Surely they’re not happy to say nothing for another six weeks?”

Father-of-two Allan Owens, a Keresley community volunteer who is a former parish council member, also lodged official complaints to the council’s monitoring officer Christine Forde and national Labour party general secretary Iain McNicol concerning Coun Lancaster’s tweets, for which he sought an apology.

He said: “I am disappointed that it has taken so long for a resolution. It appears that certain council departments cease to be able to function when ‘people are out of the office’ (the only explanation received by the residents so far).

“It seems they are delaying the investigation so they do not get councillors and the Labour group into an embarrassing situation shortly before the election.

“I find it appalling that two elected Labour party councillors can make allegations about racism within a local Parish Council and it not be treated seriously by Coventry council when complaints are made.”

Dr Walter Milner of Keresley Parish Council had also sought explanation from Coun Lancaster.

A council spokesperson told the Observer this week: “All formal complaints made to the monitoring officer are fully investigated. We are not able to comment on the detail of ongoing complaints.”

A Labour party spokesman said: “We’re still looking into this issue and will respond in due course.”

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