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Knowl View: Rochdale leader 'not wise' to return during investigation

Richard Farnell and Jim Dobbin
Image caption Mr Farnell's reinstatement was "a bad move", Mr Dobbin said

Rochdale Council's new leader should not have taken up the role while an investigation into sexual abuse at a school for vulnerable boys takes place, a local MP has said.

The council is looking into abuse at Knowl View School in the early 1990s.

Richard Farnell, who was reinstalled as leader recently, was council leader then and has denied knowing about it.

Heywood and Middleton MP Jim Dobbin said it was "not wise" for him to be leader while the review takes place.

The council investigation, which is being run separately to a police investigation into the alleged abuse, is investigating whether the authority could have done more.

Knowl View School was a residential school for vulnerable boys. At various points Cyril Smith, the late MP for Rochdale who has been accused of abusing boys, was a governor.

'Back seat'

Mr Farnell, who led the council in the late 80s and early 90s, was reinstalled on Wednesday, after ousting previous leader Colin Lambert at a Labour group meeting on Monday.

He said he was "appalled that some people are attempting to use the serious abuse at Knowl View as a political football to try and smear me".

"Although it is 22 years since I was last leader of the council, I am sure that allegations surrounding Knowl View made to health and council staff during the seven months towards the end of my leadership were not brought to my attention.

"The inquiry should be allowed to get on with its job without interference from politicians."

He added that "until such time as the review is finalised I am legally advised that it would be inappropriate for me to comment further".

Mr Dobbin, who served as Mr Farnell's deputy for a period in his first term as leader, said he thought Mr Farnell's reinstatement was "a bad move".

"Because Richard was leader of the council at the time that these accusations were made - even though he may well have known not known anything about it - I think it is wrong for him to be taking up the leadership at this particular time."

He said it would have been "more sensible to take a back seat at this stage".

Mr Dobbin claimed that he had known "nothing at all" about the allegations during his time as Mr Farnell's deputy.

The independent inquiry into the role of Rochdale Council is due to report at the end of July.

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