FORMER Coventry council leader Ann Lucas is embroiled in allegations that her candidacy for today’s local elections has not followed correct procedures under election law.
The controversy concerns an official nomination for her to stand in the election for Holbrook ward provided by her long-time political allay and agent, councillor Rachel Lancaster.
Under election law, people can only nominate a candidate to stand if they are registered to vote in the same ward, and live in that ward.
We reported last year how Coun Lancaster had moved into a converted new family home in Allesley with her mother, long-time Coventry Labour Party stalwart Margaret Lancaster – despite controversy over errors in a planning application.
In official forms which declare that Coun Rachel Lancaster is Coun Lucas’s elections agent, Coun Lancaster declared this Allesley address as her residence.
Her former Holbrooks home in the ward has been rented out, but still owned by her.
It would appear she remains on the electoral register at that Holbrooks address.
While voters can potentially register at two addresses where they live, the law obliges them to register at an address where they have a “considerable degree of permanence”, the Electoral Commission states.
The Coventry Observer has learned complaints and concerns have been lodged over the last week with Coventry City Council’s elections officer about Coun Lancaster’s nomination for Ann Lucas.
We sought a response from the council’s elections office and the returning officer for today’s elections, who is the council’s chief executive Martin Reeves.
A council spokesperson provided us with the following statement: “The Returning Officer, when making a decision on nomination papers, checks that the 10 electors who subscribe the nomination are local government electors for the area.
“The Returning Officer is legally required to take the nomination paper on face value. There is no ability to conduct any investigation or go below the surface of the nomination paper. Any matter of investigation would be an issue for the police.
“The Returning Officer received an email in the early hours of this morning asking for these issues to be looked into. This request has been acknowledged and will be responded to in due course.”
We have asked why Mr Reeves had not been notified days before when his elections office had been informed. We have also raised further questions about whether the council would have had some duty to act and investigate further.
We asked if any other steps had been taken by the council.
There was no response to that question and it appears Coun Lucas is standing in Holbrook ward in a bid to retain her council seat, as scheduled.
Voters go to the polls today in all of Coventry City Council’s 18 wards – with 18 seats on the 54-member, Labour-held authority up for grabs.
Coun Lucas continued as a backbencher after she was ousted as council leader in a leadership coup by Labour colleagues in 2016 – when Coun Lancaster also lost her cabinet member portfolio.
Coun Lancaster has since received a final written warning from the ruling Labour group over conduct towards colleagues and in public, including after the fall-out over her new family home in Allesley, all of which has been exclusively revealed by the Coventry Observer.
We have also invited Ann Lucas and Coun Lancaster, a Labour Holbrook councillor, to comment.