Further calls for government-led public inquiry into child abuse and grooming in Oldham voted down

Further calls for a public inquiry led by the government into grooming and child sexual exploitation in Oldham have been voted down.

The Failsworth Independent Group (FIP) tabled a motion at full council on Wednesday night calling on the chief executive to write to government ministers requesting a ‘fully independent and broad ranging’ public inquiry ‘as soon as is ‘practically possible’.

It was the same wording the group put forward in a motion in July, which was approved after being amended by the Labour administration to remove the section about a public inquiry.

A town hall rule about not bringing back the same motion within six months was waived so it could be debated for a second time.

The latest motion represents the fourth call that has been formally made for a further wide-reaching investigation into historic sexual abuse in the borough.

A review into allegations of abuse which was published in June found that vulnerable children in Oldham had been failed despite efforts to protect them between 2011 and 2014.

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Moving his party’s motion, Councillor Brian Hobin addressed council leader Amanda Chadderton, saying: “I am aware that one of the survivors she spoke to asked her directly to vote for this because the survivors themselves want a full public independent inquiry into the matter.”

He added: “We’re committed as a team to push for this motion and to push for justice for the survivors for as long as it takes. So even if it does get voted down today, we’ll keep coming back and hopefully once the power has shifted in this chamber we’ll get somewhere.

“It’s not for the opposition to ask for the Home Office to come in, and I’m sure if the full council was to ask the Home Office and demand an inquiry, it would be given.

Failsworth Independent Party group leader Councillor Brian Hobin
(Image: Oldham council)

“The review that we received in June highlighted multiple failings. And while we reluctantly accept Greater Manchester Police’s Operation Sherwood, which is going after the criminals and the perpetrators – we expect results from that, and for now we’ll keep an eye on it and demand to those results.

“But an independent public inquiry is needed to look into the council failings. We have still had no accountability for members or officers of this place.

“Until we’ve had that we can’t move on. We’d just be closing the door on what’s gone before without really addressing it.”

Conservative Councillor Robert Barnes added: “A public inquiry should be the starting point whereby the council does not set its own terms of reference. How can we as a town move forward when we have not yet learnt the lessons of the past?”

Coun Chadderton said that ‘everybody knows’ the Labour group would vote against the motion, adding ‘we’re open about what our position is on this’.

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“I would never try to dismiss those women’s experiences and I’ve been really open and honest both the failings of the council and the failings of the police,” she said.

“Whatever action we take now, we can never rectify what happened to those women and those girls. There is no point during being leader of this council I tried to defend something that is indefensible.

“What happened to them is beyond the pale and people need to be locked up for a very, very long time, and it is a shame on all of us that they weren’t locked up at the time.

“The reality is – if the government wanted to do it [an inquiry], they would do it. If the new Home Secretary wrote to us tomorrow and said we’re going to launch a public inquiry, we’d say fine and open the doors, and like we did with the independent review, offer up thousands of documents and emails.

“But do I as leader of the council think that’s where we should focus and resource – and I don’t mean resource by financial resource or anything like that – but I do think our focus has got to be on justice for those victims and also learning from the past.

“Because what happened to those women and those young girls should never ever happen to another child in this town or in this country. It is a stain on all of us that it continues to do so all over.”

The meeting had earlier heard that a letter from the Liberal Democrat group to the government asking for a further public inquiry had been refused in a response from the Home Office.

The motion was supported by the Failsworth Independent Party, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, with all Labour councillors voting against. It was defeated by 24 votes to 31.

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham