‘Victims feel Richard Farnell isn’t fit to be leader of the council’
the council added.
Former pupils at Knowl View school, which closed in 1995, say they were subjected to horrendous abuse during the 1980s and 1990s.
Coun Farnell told the inquiry on Tuesday that although the director of education, director of social services, chief executive, Labour education chair and Tory health authority chair had all known about emerging allegations when he was first leader, they had never informed him at the time.
He also denied admitting to fellow Rochdale Labour councillor Peter Joinson in 2014 that he had in fact known. Coun Joinson was called to give evidence himself and reiterated his allegation.
He said Coun Farnell – during a private conversation that he had later reported both to the regional Labour party and subsequently to the police – had admitted to having known about the scandal in 1992, including to having seen a draft report into the allegations at the time. Mr Scorer says both Labour and the Liberal Democrats emerge badly from a ‘shabby tale’.
Last week, Lib Dem Paul Rowen, who ran the council after Coun Farnell between 1992 and 1996 – and was later the town’s MP – told the inquiry he had been unaware of the scale of the problems at Knowl View until later. He had now”, he not read papers on the subject offered to him by officers when he took up office in May 1992 because he was too busy, he said, adding that he would have expected officers or political colleagues to have made him aware if there were serious ongoing concerns. When appointing Cyril Smith as a governor in 1994 he had not recalled that sexual abuse allegations had already been made against him 15 years earlier, he said.
“I had no reason to doubt his integrity or his honesty at that particular time,” he said, adding that he had not heard any ‘rumours’ about him either.
Cyril Smith was Rochdale’s Liberal MP for 20 years. After his death allegations emerged that he had abused boys at both Knowl View and Cambridge House, a boys’ hostel that closed in the 1970s, for years.
“Neither the Liberal Democrat nor Labour parties come well out of this shabby tale,” Mr Scorer said. “Both parties need to change. The victims are dismayed at the evidence from politicians during this hearing. They feel strongly that Rochdale needs a new generation of political leaders who can tackle these problems effectively.”
He added that his clients – some of whom allege they were abused by Smith – would have to live with the effects ‘for the rest of their lives’.
“Nothing can change the past, but my clients want to know that lessons are being learned and that children will be protected in the future,” he added.
“It’s clear from the hearings that some of the current senior employed staff at Rochdale council are now making real efforts to combat child sexual exploitation.
“I know that Greater Manchester Police have also done a lot to improve their response to child sexual abuse.
“The battle isn’t won, but there are many dedicated social workers, police officers, youth workers and teachers in Greater Manchester trying to do the right thing to protect children.”