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Leader of Rochdale Council said he 'was never told' about sex abuse

Knowl View residential school Credit: ITV Granada

The leader of Rochdale Council has dismissed claims he knew about allegations of child sexual abuse in the early 90s, insisting his colleague "is lying".

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.

Richard 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 inquiry 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:

I was not informed of events at Knowl View during my time as leader."

– Richard Farnell, leader of Rochdale Council

Mr Farnell 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 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."

– Richard Farnell, leader of Rochdale Council