Demo de­mands that coun­cil leader goes

Rochdale Observer - - LITERATURE AND IDEAS FESTIVAL - Jen­nifer.williams@men-news.co.uk @jen­williams­men

DEMON­STRA­TORS gath­ered out­side Rochdale’s coun­cil of­fices de­mand­ing town hall leader Richard Far­nell ei­ther re­sign or be sacked, in the wake of his ev­i­dence this week to the na­tional child abuse in­quiry.

Around 20 peo­ple stood out­side Num­ber One River­side shout­ing ‘Far­nell Out’ and wav­ing plac­ards, be­fore plac­ing a wreath in mem­ory of Knowl View vic­tims in the river Roch.

Their protest came af­ter Coun Far­nell - who was also leader when al­le­ga­tions of child abuse at the coun­cil-run school sur­faced in the early 1990s told the In­de­pen­dent In­quiry into Child Sex­ual Abuse (IICSA) that he knew noth­ing about the re­ports un­til the last few years.

He told Tues­day’s hear- ing that his se­nior of­fi­cers had never in­formed him of the emerg­ing scandal, which saw boys sex­u­ally and phys­i­cally abused by staff, in­trud­ers and the late Lib­eral MP Cyril Smith.

Thurs­day’s protest by Par­ents Against Groom­ing, which cam­paigns on child abuse, also saw plac­ards read­ing ‘Lloyd Out,’ a ref­er­ence to new Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd - who was po­lice com­mis­sioner up un­til May.

But pro­test­ers said their pri­or­ity was forc­ing the coun­cil leader’s res­ig­na­tion.

Or­gan­iser Billy Howarth, 39, of Fir­grove, whose dad went to Knowl View, said: “To­day we want to see the back of Richard Far­nell, our il­lus­tri­ous coun­cil leader.

“If he’s telling the truth, that he sat as leader all that time and no­body told him, isn’t that a fail­ure? He needs to go.

“There have been three abuse scan­dals in Rochdale now and it’s all the same peo­ple still sat around the ta­ble say­ing they didn’t know.”

Ahead of the Rochdale leg of the IICSA open­ing this week, the coun­cil’s chief ex­ec­u­tive apol­o­gised on be­half of the town hall for fail­ing Knowl View pupils 25 years ago.

Two sep­a­rate in­ter­nal re­ports were writ­ten into con­cerns about abuse at the res­i­den­tial school in 1991 and 1992, but the author­ity con­tin­ued to place boys at it up un­til its clo­sure in 1995.

One par­ent of a boy who was phys­i­cally abused at Knowl View, who didn’t wish to be named, said she was now look­ing to gather other par­ents in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion through the group’s Face­book page.

“My child was placed there at nine years old, when it was hap­pen­ing,” she said.

“I didn’t know, ob­vi­ously, oth­er­wise he’d never have gone. I sub­se­quently found out that at this time the re­ports were be­ing writ­ten.

“So they knew about it and put him there. I’d like to get some of the par­ents to­gether so we can maybe take a group ac­tion for safe­guard­ing is­sues - they placed my child in dan­ger.”

She added: “How can Far­nell have been the chair of this, that and the other leader - and no­body have ap­proached him with some­thing so big? He should be sacked.”

The pro­test­ers also briefly en­tered Num­ber One River­side and sat down on the lobby floor, be­fore Billy Howarth climbed down to the river and re­leased a red and white wreath into the River Roch to a round of ap­plause.

He said cam­paign­ers were hop­ing to now start look­ing for­wards, in­clud­ing through the launch of the new Kid­stop cafe at Champ­ness Hall.

The cafe, for chil­dren and teenagers, opened on Friday and aims to give them a safe place to go in the evenings.

“We’ve set up Kid­stop for the whole community,” he said. “Kids can go there be­tween 5pm and 9pm. There’ll be coun­selling, in­ter­net aware­ness classes, self de­fence classes, classes about parental aware­ness.

“We want to look for­ward rather than just look­ing back at Knowl View.”

Andy Lit­tle­wood, 49, is chair­man of the Ten­ants and Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion in Lower Falinge but spoke at the demon­stra­tion in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

Andy joined the calls for Coun Far­nell’s res­ig­na­tion.

He said: “Ac­count­abil­ity, that’s what we want. We can’t move on un­til the vic­tims of child abuse are recog­nised.

“Rochdale can’t move on un­til this has hap­pened. The main is­sue of to­day is Coun Far­nell.

“We are de­mand­ing his res­ig­na­tion. If there was a vote to­mor­row, he would be out.

“I think it’s a good thing that child abuse has a name now, that we’ve iden­ti­fied it.

“The fact it has a name now means it’s out in the open. It has to stop.”

Coun Far­nell has been asked to com­ment.

A spokesman for Rochdale coun­cil said: “The coun­cil has given its full sup­port to the In­de­pen­dent In­quiry into Child Sex­ual Abuse (IICSA) and we will con­tinue to as­sist where we are able to.

“We have apol­o­gised for the his­toric fail­ings that were made by the coun­cil and re­it­er­ated that we are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that chil­dren are pro­tected now.

“Any­one with in­for­ma­tion about abuse should con­tact the coun­cil or the po­lice im­me­di­ately.”

The Ob­server has ap­proached both the town’s MPs to ask them whether they still have con­fi­dence in the Labour coun­cil leader, af­ter Richard Scorer, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing some of the vic­tims, also called on him to go.

Hey­wood and Mid­dle­ton MP Liz McInnes said: “The in­de­pen­dent in­quiry into this ex­tremely se­ri­ous is­sue should be al­lowed to run its course free from any prej­u­di­cial com­ments and in­ter­fer­ence from out­side sources.

“It is vi­tal that the in­quiry is fair, con­sid­ers all the ev­i­dence, and is al­lowed to come to its own con­clu­sions.”

Tony Lloyd had not re­sponded at the time of writ­ing, but had ear­lier told ITV that he would not be com­ment­ing be­cause it would be ‘in­ap­pro­pri­ate.’

Sean Hans­ford

●●Protests out­side coun­cil of­fices by lobby group Par­ents Against Groom­ing, call­ing for the coun­cil leader Richard Far­nell to be sacked

●●Billy Howarth

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