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11.12.17

Council leader quits over ‘extremist campaign’ after child sex abuse inquiry claims

Rochdale Borough Council leader Richard Farnell has stepped down following widespread negative reaction to the controversial evidence he gave at the national child abuse inquiry.

In a letter of resignation presented to councillors last week, Farnell blamed a “persistent campaign from a small minority of extremist members” for his decision.

Questioned by the child abuse inquiry last month on incidents which occurred at a local boys’ school in the early 1990s, the former leader – who was in charge at the time of the allegations – denied all knowledge of the events at the time, despite the session finding that it was “inconceivable” that he would not have known.

The events involved former Rochdale MP Cyril Smith, who was the subject of multiple sexual abuse allegations after his death in 2010.

In a letter to party colleagues, Farnell said: “Following my evidence to the Independent Inquiry into CSA, there has been a persistent campaign from a small minority of extremist members in the party calling for my suspension in an attempt to undermine my leadership and cause disunity in the party and the group.

“The result has been to divert attention away from the serious and wide-ranging inquiry into how a number of organisations in the borough failed to protect vulnerable young people over several decades.

“It has become clear, despite the fact the Independent Inquiry has yet to conclude its investigations, this campaign has become a distraction from the important work being carried out by the Inquiry, and that is damaging the council and the party.

“After a great deal of thought and reflection, I have come to the conclusion it would be better if someone else took up the important job of leading the local party and the council.”

Steve Rumbelow, chief executive of Rochdale Council, said the resignation would take case with immediate effect, with the responsibilities taken over by two deputy leaders.

Top image: Alan M Barr

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Comments

Kevin Hutchinson   12/12/2017 at 09:10

The session did not find that it was inconceivable that he would not have known. This was merely an assertion made by the cross examiner who then failed to produce any supporting evidence. The inquiry's 'findings' are yet to be published.

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