When in June 2014 Rochdale MBC had begun a council-commissioned inquiry is into whether there was a town hall coverup relating to possible sex abuse at Knowl View, the late Jim Dobbin, then Labour MP for Heywood & Middleton, said it was the ‘wrong time’ for Richard Farnell to take power as leader of the Rochdale Council. Mr Dobbin then reminded us that it was Richard Farnell, who had just taken over was also leader in the early 1990s when the Knowl View sex abuse scandal was first being investigated. At that time Mr Dobbin told the Manchester Evening News: “I don’t think it’s very wise at this particular time, particularly with the inquiry going on into Knowl View. “Richard was leader at the time these accusations were being made, so I don’t think it’s a very clever thing for Richard to do and if he had spoken to me about it I would have said so.” This week, before the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, Councillor Richard Farnell blamed senior officers for the scandal, which he said had only come to his attention in 2014. Councillor Farnell had also been leader between 1986 and 1992, when boys in the council-run Knowl View school were being subjected to horrendous sexual abuse, including rape. He went on to tell the inquiry – which is investigating institutionalised abuse across the country – repeatedly that he
had never heard of any allegations relating to the school until recently, adding: ‘I am not prepared to accept personal responsibility for failing to take action in this matter.’ In a remarkable testimony to the national child abuse inquiry, Councillor Richard Farnell blamed senior officers for not having brief him of the scandal. Coun Farnell was continually asked about his knowledge of the events by Brian Altman QC, who went on to point out that his own director of education, the director of social services, the chair of education and opposition members were all on record as all having been aware of the allegations. Yet, Councillor Farnell has still insisted he had never been briefed. This was a week in which an ex-Labour group chief whip councillor Peter Joinson accused the Rochdale council leader Richard Farnell of ‘not telling the truth’ to the child abuse inquiry, and of giving ‘conflicting accounts’ over the reports about sexual abuse at the Knowl View residential school in Norden, Rochdale. And in turn Councillor Farnell went on to accuse Mr Joinson of faking a note, claiming it was an attempt to smear him owing to internal disputes within the local Labour Party in Rochdale. In these circumstances of internal warfare in the local Labour Party ought the national Labour Party to be considering if it should suspend the local party?