A COVENTRY Labour councillor has unexpectedly resigned less than five weeks before the election after a second formal complaint was made against him for alleged foul and abusive language.
Dan Howells had been selected to stand in Whoberley as the Labour candidate for council elections on May 7.
But the Coventry Observer understands a formal complaint was made to party officials concerning a row outside the Minstel Boy pub in Whoberley while he was out campaigning, in which it was alleged he used offensive language.
Only weeks before, he avoided any formal sanction from an investigation after fellow Labour Coventry city councillor Jayne Innes had accused him of abusive language towards her in row last year.
In response to the first allegation, it is understood West Midlands regional party bosses suggested the two resolve their differences informally – which enabled Coun Howells to stand again for his Whoberley seat.
He has now been replaced as Labour’s candidate in Whoberley by long-standing party member Pervez Akhtar.
He beat Christian spiritualist minister Christine Thomas, restaurateur Rois Ali, postgraduate student Dave Toulson and Sharon Willletts in an emergency selection proceedure this weekend.
Coun Howells, first elected in 2011, was considered a promising young talent at the council and rose to become a deputy cabinet member for education.
He works for an educational charity which fast-tracks graduates into less advantaged schools.
It is understood he had been called to a re-selection meeting following the complaint.
His resignation was announced in a statement which read:
“Comment by Council Leader Cllr Ann Lucas: Coventry Council Leader, Cllr. Ann Lucas today paid a warm tribute to Cllr. Dan Howells who has announced that he is standing down after four years as one of the Labour Councillors in Whoberley Ward.
“Cllr. Lucas said: It has been a pleasure to work with Dan who has made a real contribution to the work of the City Council. We are sorry to be losing him at this time and wish him well for the future.’
“In a letter to Cllr. Lucas, Dan Howells said: ‘With sadness, I wish to inform you that I have made the decision to formally withdraw from the panel of candidates and therefore will not be seeking re-election in Whoberley Ward in the local elections on 7 May.
“The timing of this is far from ideal, but a number of factors have led to this decision and standing as an elected representative is a responsibility that I take very seriously. I would always want to approach any role in a way where I can perform at my best.
“An opportunity has arisen to pursue further university study in addition to my full-time job and I am wary of being able to do my absolute best in all of my endeavours.
“I have been a proud representative of Whoberley Ward for the last four years. I would like to reiterate my support to all Labour council and Parliamentary candidates for the May elections and offer my sincere thanks to ward members, council colleagues and party activists who have given me steadfast support over the last four years.
“I strongly feel we have a better city under a Labour led council and will be a better country under a Labour government, and I hope to see that on 8 May.”
A Labour party spokesman declined to comment concerning the second formal complaint against Mr Howells.
In a statement to party members seen by the Observer, Mr Howells said he felt “incredibly let down by my party locally”.
It added: “There has been a clear inequality of treatment and support available to different councillors and I am at a loss as to understand why this is the case.
“I have felt that objective, calm analysis, support, occasional basic organisation and professionalism have been wanting at times and this has over-complicated matters that were so easy to resolve.
“Ultimately, this inequality of treatment does not match my expectations of a few party colleagues (I would emphasise just a few) and it is a combination of all of these factors stated above as to why I have made this very difficult decision that I have come to.”
Sources close to Mr Howells claimed he and the pub landlord had resolved their issue informally, and the landlord had sent an email to the council Labour group chief whip Coun Patricia Hetherton to state this.
They allege Labour colleagues handling the matter had later denied all knowledge of the email’s existence, after one had prevously read out the email to Coun Howells.
They claim Coun Howells had been “bullied out by the council leadership” after a “planned vendetta.”
Mr Howells contests one-sided versions of events regarding both formal complaints.
Sources close to Mr Howells also say the “montain out of a molehill” saga seemed even more unfair, given other Labour councillors had recently escaped serious sanction after recent public rows – including councillors Kevin Maton, Rachel Lancaster and David Galliers (as reported in the Coventry Observer).