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EXCLUSIVE: Rochdale council leader personally apologises for the first time to abuse victims

By Daniel Hewitt, Political Correspondent

The leader of Rochdale Council has, for the first time, personally apologised for the abuse suffered by boys at school in Rochdale.

Speaking exclusively to Granada Reports, Richard Farnell said he "deeply regretted" what happened at Knowl View when he was council leader, saying "I personally apologise to what happened to those boys at Knowl View."

WATCH: Richard Farnell is asked eight times whether or not he would personally apologise to victims of abuse at a care home while he was council leader.

The leader of Rochdale Council has dismissed claims he knew about allegations of child sexual abuse in the early 1990s. Mr Farnell, who regained the position of Labour council leader in 2014 after a gap of 22 years, told the inquiry he was never informed of the scandal during his first stint in office between 1986 and 1992.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is examining how the late MP Cyril Smith and others were able to target youngsters at institutions in the town over several decades.

It has heard how serious allegations of sexual abuse involving children at Knowl View School were known about by senior officials within the council.

The inquiry has heard how evidence about abuse at Knowl View mounted from September 1990, when a paedophile had been let in and sexually abused at least one boy.

Mr Farnell said he "was not informed of events at Knowl View during my time as leader" and would not take any personal responsibility for the suffering of boys at a school for which his council had responsibility, blaming council officers for failing to tell him.

The director of social services, director of education, the chief executive, Labour education chair and Conservative health authority chair all knew about allegations when Mr Farrel was leader at the time they first surfaced, but Mr Farnell says they never informed him.

He told the inquiry that "the council should accept responsibility for failings that happened in Knowl View, and individuals must take responsibilities for their own actions," he said.

"I bitterly regret that the senior officers of the council never once approached me to brief me about these matters."

But today, when asked eight times by ITV political correspondent Daniel Hewitt, Mr Farnell said he was "personally sorry", having starting the interview by insisting he had nothing to apologise for.

The barrister acting on behalf of the victims told the national inquiry on Friday that it was "implausible" that Mr Farnell was not aware of the allegations and accused him of "an extraordinary dereliction of duty".

Laura Hoyano said if he was not aware of the allegations, he was guilty of "wilful blindness" and hinted at ‘a cover up at the level of the leadership of the borough council’.

Mr Farnell however told Granada Reports he would stay on as council leader, after the lawyer representing the victims Richard Scorer called for him to resign, and warned against "pre-empting the findings of the independent inquiry."

Knowl View school closed in 1995. Pupils have spoke of the horrendous abuse they endured during the 1980s and 1990s.

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EXCLUSIVE: George Osborne says some of Theresa May's advisers tried to airbrush his idea for a Northern Powerhouse from history

George Osborne in his only TV interview. Credit: ITV Granada

George Osborne has said that some of Theresa May's advisers tried to airbrush his idea for a Northern Powerhouse from history.

Speaking exclusively to Granada Reports, the former chancellor and Tatton MP said Mrs May should now use the Conservative party conference in Manchester in October to commit her government to the North.

Our political correspondent Dan Hewitt has been reporting for a couple of weeks on the state of public transport in the North West.

You might remember he went from Manchester to a science park in Ellesmere Port on public transport - a journey that takes less than an hour in a car - it took Dan nearly two and a half hours.

That report was picked up by the media nationally - and clearly made its way across George Osborne's desk.

Dan spoke to Mr Osborne at the London Evening Standard's office for his only TV interview.

The Blackpool MP Paul Maynard is a government spokesperson on transport.

He says the government and Prime Minster are committed to the Northern Powerhouse, and it's safe in the their hands.

Billions of pounds less spent on transport in the north compared to the capital

Credit: ITV Granada

Business leaders say a lack of investment in transport in the north of England shows how we're being let down by the Government.

Figures published yesterday suggest the north has seen £59 billion pounds less spending over the last decade compared to the capital.

And yet the Government insists it's still committed to creating a Northern Powerhouse. Our political correspondent Daniel Hewitt takes up the story:

Corbyn: Manchester and Liverpool in danger of creating London-style housing crisis

Credit: ITV Granada

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Manchester and Liverpool are in danger of creating a London-style housing crisis.

In an interview with Granada Reports, he warns that private sector investment could price people out of buying a home in their communities.

The Labour leader made the comments during a two-day tour of the region, which ends tonight with a rally on Southport beach.

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"This is the best chance we will get to change the fortunes of the North" - Andy Burnham on 100 days as Mayor

Public safety will be put at risk unless cuts to frontline policing are reversed.

That is the message from Andy Burnham, as he marks 100 days since becoming the first Mayor of Greater Manchester.

Since taking office, the former Labour MP has pledged 15% of his 115 thousand pound a year salary to end rough sleeping by 2020, and led the region's response to the Manchester Arena terror attack.

He told our Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt, that devolution is already giving the north a louder voice on the national stage:

  1. Daniel Hewitt, ITV News

Special Report: The North West seats in the General Election spotlight

With less than three weeks to go until polling day, it's time for the first of our special reports, looking at the areas in the North West which could prove crucial to the outcome of next month's election.

As ever it's the marginal seats under the spotlight, and we're starting in starting in Barrow and Furness, where Labour's majority is under 800

Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt reports:

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