A COVENTRY councillor under investigation over allegations including tweeting a ‘window licking’ jibe – a commonly known insult towards disabled people – has escaped suspension despite already being on a final written warning.
Instead, we understand Coun Rachel Lancaster has been ordered to formally apologise to the group and undergo code of conduct training.
As we revealed in January, she had already received a ‘final written warning’ and faced further disciplinary probes by the council Labour group’s whip’s office for a string of outspoken controversies, including her social media use.
She had accused Labour colleagues on Facebook of “abusive, misogynistic nastiness”.
If she had been suspended, she would have become an Independent councillor for Holbrook if she wanted to continue in the role. She is due for re-election in 2020.
A recent Labour group meeting was informed of the lesser outcome, we have learned.
On March 8 this year, 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 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.
Her final written warning had following this newspaper’s investigation last year into planning breaches for her family home.
She faced 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.
It had examined complaints from Labour colleagues alleged to have infringed group rules concerning treating other councillors with respect.
We exposed 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 further Labour group investigation after inflammatory remarks on her Facebook page about colleagues’ alleged “abusive, misogynistic nastiness”.
On 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 informal police advice 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.