20th Sep, 2018

Coventry councillor 'licking window' jibe added to suspension probe after final warning

Les Reid 23rd Mar, 2018 Updated: 23rd Mar, 2018

A COVENTRY councillor embroiled in a row over tweeting a commonly known insult towards disabled people faces further investigation and suspension – and is already on a ‘final written warning’.

Our sources told us her Labour councillor colleagues are adding Rachel Lancaster’s controversial tweet earlier this month to outstanding matters under investigation.

We exclusively revealed in January she had received the final writing warning for her previous social media and other activity, and was facing further investigation which could result in her suspension from the Labour group – before this new matter arose.

If she is suspended, she would become an Independent councillor for Holbrook if she wanted to continue in the role. She is due for re-election in 2020.

On March 8, she tweeted in response to a provocative tweet to her by a spoof Coventry council Twitter account called @LiargateCovCity, “Been licking the window again have you?”

The term ‘window lickers’ is understood by many who have complained about the tweet – including parents of disabled youngsters – to be a detrimental phrase towards people with learning difficulties.

Coun Lancaster later took to Twitter to explain she had not known of that meaning of the phrase, and she had associated window licking with childish behaviour.

Our sources told us advice is being sought on Coventry council Labour group investigating the matter separately in addition to the outstanding matters – and both could result in suspension.

Her final written warning had following this newspaper’s investigation last year into planning breaches for her family home.

She still faces further investigation into other matters relating to her Facebook activity, revealed by us in October.

We revealed in January that Coun Lancaster had been informed in writing of the final written warning, following an investigation by the Labour group whips’ office.

The whips – responsible for group discipline – were tasked with examining complaints from Labour colleagues alleged to have infringed group rules concerning treating other councillors with respect.

We had revealed in June last year a planning application for a home conversion in Allesley for her family – including mother and Coventry Labour Party stalwart Margaret Lancaster (the applicant) had breached planning rules.

In the aftermath, she felt unsupported by colleagues and fired off controversial emails which lead to complaints – seen by the Observer – to fellow Labour councillors. Conservative opposition councillors were copied in on some.

It is understood the planning application itself was not among the disciplinary matters investigated which lead to the final written warning.

The Observer had called for an inquiry into the council’s handling of planning applications by unelected officers – and not the elected planning committee – where councillors were involved or were related to applicants. Several instances included the Lancaster application had led to public allegations of special favours for councillors.

The Coventry Observer also revealed in October last year that Coun Lancaster faced potential suspension from the Labour group after inflammatory remarks on her Facebook page about colleagues’ alleged “abusive, misogynistic nastiness”.

We revealed in January that those allegations were to be the subject of the second investigation, which is still outstanding.

One Monday October 16 last year, at 8.07pm, a post on Rachel Lancaster’s Facebook page in her name stated: “Wow, don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. All from a person who’s bankrupted two CLP’s (Constituency Labour Party) and lost both elections, and has been given a police warning. #lyingbastards

The post was understood to refer to her colleague Jayne Innes, the cabinet member for city services, who was promoted last year under Coun Duggins’ leadership.

Coun Innes received a police warning three years ago concerning relatively minor allegations during a dispute with former Labour councillor Dan Howells. She also stood for Parliament in the constituency of Nuneaton and Bedworth in 2010, losing to the Tories.

When a Facebook follower requested further information about the meaning of the controversial posts, another post under Rachel Lancaster’s name stated: “Some bullshit doing the rounds about all of us being bitter because George is now leader, we’re unhappy because of the abusive, misogynistic nastiness going on.”

Coun Lancaster is an ally of former Coventry City Council leader Ann Lucas. Coun Lancaster was ousted from her cabinet member’s position last year when a Labour group coup removed Coun Lucas as leader in favour of Coun Duggins.

We contacted Coun Lancaster for a response.

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