CITY councillors have been ordered to undertake social media training after a Labour member made an offensive gaffe.
Cllr Catherine Dawson, who represents Mincinglake, has had to write a letter of apology to Ben Howlett, the national chairman of Conservative Future after posting an insulting message on Twitter about him.
Cllr Dawson intended the tweet to be a private message to another councillor but instead publicly wrote: "Benhowlett@yeskatiedear Not only a little p**** who disguises his poor maths with sexism, a cheap little p****."
Cllr Dawson told the Echo: "Unfortunately I saw red at some comments directed at a young Plymouth councillor. I meant to send her a direct message, but accidentally sent it publicly, to my dismay.
"It was a 5am lack of judgement when I'd been up feeding our young baby. I was horrified when I realised what happened and apologised immediately, which was accepted. I gave a statement to our standards committee, and subsequently sent an apology in writing." Cllr Dawson added: "The council officers have wisely arranged social media training for all councillors, which I hope everyone attends. A large number of Exeter councillors are on Twitter now, and it's certainly been a useful lesson, if an embarrassing one for me. I sincerely regret any offence caused."
Cllr Dawson added the city council's standards committee did not consider it to have been a breach of the code of conduct and the matter is now closed.
Yolonda Henson, leader of the city's Conservatives, said: "It is up to the Labour party what they do but we would have suspended a Conservative councillor who did this.
"I find it absolutely appalling that a councillor has brought the city council into disrepute using such language."
Pete Edwards, leader of the city council, said: "Cllr Dawson immediately apologised in writing and as to suspending her, the Government has changed the rules on reprimanding councillors so there is nothing more we can do. But I believe Cllr Dawson has done everything that she can."
Mr Howlett told the Echo: "As someone who works daily with young people to encourage greater involvement in politics, I was very disappointed by the language used by Cllr Dawson on Twitter.
"Young people positively use social media to communicate with their political representatives and this type of foul language destroys trust in the political process, turns off young people from working with political parties and undermines the hard work of all political parties in reaching out to young people."