In this work we consider perturbations of homogeneous and hypersurface orthogonal cosmological backgrounds with local rotational symmetry (LRS), using a method based on the 1 + 1 + 2 covariant split of spacetime. The backgrounds, of LRS class II, are characterised by that the vorticity, the twist of the 2-sheets, and the magnetic part of the Weyl tensor all vanish. They include the flat Friedmann universe as a special case. The matter contents of the perturbed spacetimes are given by vorticity-free perfect fluids, but otherwise the perturbations are arbitrary and describe gravitational, shear, and density waves. All the perturbation variables can be given in terms of the time evolution of a set of six harmonic coefficients. This set decouples into one set of four coefficients with the density perturbations acting as source terms, and another set of two coefficients describing damped source-free gravitational waves with odd parity. We also consider the flat Friedmann universe, which has been considered by several others using the 1 + 3 covariant split, as a check of the isotropic limit. In agreement with earlier results we find a second-order wavelike equation for the magnetic part of the Weyl tensor which decouples from the density gradient for the flat Friedmann universes. Assuming vanishing vector perturbations, including the density gradient, we find a similar equation for the electric part of the Weyl tensor, which was previously unnoticed.
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