Councillor Richard Farnell resigns as Leader of Rochdale Borough Council
Date published: 08 December 2017
Councillor Richard Farnell
Councillor Richard Farnell has resigned as the Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, speaking to Rochdale Online he said he had made the decision "with a heavy heart" whilst on holiday recently.
Councillor Farnell wrote to party colleagues (see below) today, Friday 8 December, advising them of his decision.
His colleague, Councillor Allen Brett spoke of his sadness at his long time friend and colleague's resignation, he said: "I am very sad and disappointed that some of the more extreme members of the Labour party have put Richard under so much pressure that he has felt the need to stand down.
"He is a thoroughly nice guy whose life has been made a misery by trolls."
A Labour party group meeting on Monday will discuss Councillor Farnell's resignation and his successor.
Councillor Farnell will remain a councillor for Balderstone and Kirkholt.
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It is with an extremely heavy heart that I write to inform you that I have today tendered my resignation as the Leader of the Council.
Firstly, I would like to place on record my sincere thanks for the overwhelming support I have received from Group members, not just in recent weeks, but throughout my time as Leader during the past three and a half years.
I am proud of the record of the Labour Council under my leadership and the great things we have achieved together.
These are just a few of the things that we have managed to do, despite the enormous and unprecedented government cut backs we have been working under:
- Our schools are constantly improving and we have achieved our best ever GCSE and A level results.
- Recycling rates are the best ever and our borough has never been cleaner.
- Unlike many other areas we have saved all of our libraries and sure start centres from closure.
- Our support for business has helped create and safeguard thousands of jobs.
- Rochdale town centre has been transformed.
- Our services looking after the elderly and disabled people are rated in the top five in the country.
- We have the best record in GM in promoting apprenticeships.
- Despite facing £200M of government cuts – we have protected vital front-line services, including advice services and community centres
However, following my evidence to the Independent Inquiry into CSA, there has been a persistent campaign from a small minority of extremist members in the Party calling for my suspension in an attempt to undermine my leadership and cause disunity in the party and the Group.
The result has been to divert attention away from the serious and wide-ranging Inquiry into how a number of organisations in the borough failed to protect vulnerable young people over several decades.
It has become clear, despite the fact the Independent Inquiry has yet to conclude its investigations, this campaign has become a distraction from the important work being carried out by the Inquiry, and that is damaging the council and the party.
After a great deal of thought and reflection, I have come to the conclusion it would be better if someone else took up the important job of leading the local party and the Council.
Calls for my suspension are based entirely on political malice and pure speculation about events of a quarter of a century ago. I would like to spell out clearly and say again to you that I did not know and there is no evidence whatsoever I was informed of the events at Knowl View. There is no evidence whatsoever that there was a political cover-up.
However, there is plenty of evidence to support my consistent statements that I was not informed of events at Knowl View.
- 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 – in evidence to the Inquiry all said they did not inform me about the events there, nor did they report the matter to any council committee.
- The Inquiry has examined 140,000 pages of documents relating to Knowl View and found no report, letter, memo or briefing note addressed to me informing me about the situation at the school.
- Other leading councillors at the time – including the Chair of Social Services Stephen Moore and the Deputy Leader of the Council, the late Jim Dobbin, are all on record saying they too were never informed about Knowl View.
- A two-year police investigation – Operation Clifton – into absurd claims of a political cover-up - where 15 police officers interviewed dozens of individuals and examined hundreds of documents found NO evidence. The investigation concluded there was NO cover-up.
Nothing should get in the way of the Independent Inquiry and I and the council have supported it throughout. It was under my current leadership that the council, finally, apologised to victims for its failure to protect them.
I am confident than when the Inquiry produces its interim report it will base its findings on the clear evidence and not on ill-informed speculation or assumptions.
It is now time for someone else to take our great borough forward. You can be assured that whoever that is will receive my full support.
Councillor Richard Farnell
Labour Councillor for Balderstone and Kirkholt