Sharon MacLean resigns as Rochdale Labour Party secretary due to 'lack of action' over Knowl View scandal
Date published: 05 December 2017
Sharon MacLean, Rochdale Constituency Labour Party secretary has resigned from the position because of “a lack of action” from the local party over the Knowl View child sex abuse scandal.
In a resignation letter seen by Rochdale Online, Ms MacLean wrote: “I am no longer able to be part of a local leadership that has defended Simon Danczuk [Rochdale’s former disgraced MP], voted for 34% councillor allowances in a time of austerity and now, most importantly, defend the current Council Leader of Rochdale Council around the issue of CSA.”
Councillor Richard Farnell, Leader of Rochdale Council - who was also previously the Council leader between 1986 and 1992 - has repeatedly maintained that he “knew nothing” about young boys being subjected to horrific rapes and sexual assaults at the Council-run special school, but in closing remarks at the Inquiry in October, Laura Hoyano, counsel for the Knowl View victims, accused Councillor Farnell of a "complete abdication of leadership and responsibility" and an "extraordinary dereliction of duty".
Ms MacLean claims members of the party had ‘tried to voice their concerns to reflect these issues’ and were ‘met with censorship and manoeuvring, rather than political debate’.
The letter written by Ms MacLean continued: “This lack of action from the party over the Inquiry is putting unnecessary public and personal pressure on myself and other members who are facing the wrath of the public after having seen and heard the evidence.
"This lack of action is sending out the wrong signals to the public but especially to the victims, who are the most important people in the Inquiry who have stated their views publicly on a number of occasions that they wish the Party to act. I do not want to be a party to this inaction. These are the political reasons for my resignation.”
Eleanor Tierney, chairwoman of Rochdale Constituency Labour Party, said: “The local party is following the advice of the national General Secretary of the party in that it would not be appropriate for Labour party members or constituency parties to comment or prejudge the outcome of the Inquiry.
“This was overwhelmingly endorsed at a meeting of the Rochdale Constituency Party last month.
“The Labour Party will not be making any further comment until the findings of the Inquiry are published.”
A spokesman for the Leader of the Council said: “Councillor Farnell has steadfastly maintained while Leader of the Council in the early 90s he was never informed of the events at Knowl View school, and the evidence supports this.
“In statements and in evidence to the Inquiry, the three most senior officers at the time with responsibility for dealing with this issue – the Chief Executive and the directors of Education and Social Services - have all said they did not inform Councillor Farnell about the events there, nor did they report the matter to any council committee during his leadership.
“Furthermore, in examining the hundreds of documents relating to Knowl View, the Inquiry has found no report, letter, memo or briefing note addressed to Councillor Farnell informing him about the situation at the school.
“It is Councillor Farnell’s firm belief that the Inquiry should be allowed to get on with its job without any political interference.
“A small number of hard-left members are seeking to use this issue – not in the interests of the victims – but to create division and disunity in the party for their own narrow, extreme political ends and that is deplorable.”
The party spokesman added: “Ms MacLean’s letter, which was sent to hundreds of local party members, has been reported to the Labour Party’s Compliance Officer at head office for the unauthorised use of the personal email addresses of party members, which is a clear breach of the Data Protection Act.”
Ms MacLean declined to comment further.