Outcry from public at plan to name street after ‘lying’ council leader

A council sparked outrage amongst locals after announcing plans to name a street after late former leader Richard Farnell – who was reported to have lied under oath to the national sex abuse inquiry.

A new street on the site of the old Kirkholt Working Men’s Club, in Manchester, was to be christened ‘Richard Farnell Avenue’ – after the Labour councillor who died in 2021, aged 62. It followed a request from local councillors who wanted to ‘recognise the contribution’ he made to the Balderstone and Kirkholt ward he represented for several years. The late Coun Farnell – who had two stints as council leader – always strongly denied misleading the inquiry.

The move was fiercely criticised by Richard Scorer, the specialist abuse lawyer who represented victims at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IISCA). Mr Scorer, solicitor with Slater and Gordon, represented victims of the Knowl View and Cambridge House scandals for several years – including in legal action and during the IICSA inquiry.

The inquiry noted: “In our view, Mr Farnell lied to the Inquiry in the course of his evidence.”

On learning of the plan to name a street after the late Coun Farnell, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it was ‘very disappointing that some councillors in Rochdale want to celebrate Richard Farnell in this way’.

He said: “The fact is that Farnell lied to the inquiry in an attempt to cover up responsibility for the most appalling abuse of children. What this memorial request demonstrates is what I have long suspected, which is that some councillors in Rochdale simply do not understand, or refuse to recognise, the seriousness of what happened at Knowl View and the devastating consequences of abuse for some of Rochdale’s children.”

Mr Scorer, who also acted for victims of Cyril Smith, added: “Rochdale council failed those children, and if Rochdale is to change for the better its past failings cannot be airbrushed in that way.”

However, the controversial decision has now been reversed, reports the Manchester Evening News.

The road sign has also bene removed, with a council spokesperson explaining that the authority was aware of the ‘sensitivity around the issue’ and would now not be naming the street after the late councillor.

They said: “Over the past decade Rochdale council has done more than any other local authority in the country to detect, disrupt and prevent child sexual abuse. For several years survivors of child sexual abuse have also been provided with ongoing support through our adult social care services in what was one of the first council programmes of its kind.

“This work has been praised by Richard Scorer and was strongly supported by Richard Farnell. However, we recognise the sensitivity around this issue and after some reflection have decided to remove the sign.”

Published in April 2018, the first IICSA report concluded that Richard Farnell ‘lied to the inquiry in the course of his evidence’.

It stated: “In the light of everything we have heard and seen, it defies belief that Mr Farnell was unaware of the events involving Knowl View school, especially within the context of the public scandal involving children in the care of Rochdale council arising from the Middleton cases.”

The report also slammed his refusal to take responsibility for the failures during the hearings.

“It was shameful that he refused to accept any personal responsibility for the young lives blighted by what happened at Knowl View while he was leader,” it added. “Instead, he laid all blame for what occurred at the door of the senior officials in education and in social services.”

The former council leader was suspended by the party just half an hour after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) reported its conclusions. He had already stood down as town hall leader due to what he described as a ‘small minority’ of Labour councillors trying to undermine him after he gave evidence to the hearing.

In July 2019 he resigned as a Labour member saying he had ‘no confidence’ he would receive a fair hearing from the party in dealing with his suspension.

Source: Read Full Article