‘Special meeting’ promise holds good over CSE investigation

On Friday evening ( 17th June, 2022) a short announcement on Facebook by the Leader of Oldham Metropolitan Council, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, fulfilled a promise made to the town’s residents by two of her predecessors, Sean Fielding and, more recently, Arooj Shah.

This is the full text of her short post:

“Review into Historic Child Sexual Abuse in Oldham.

“Greater Manchester Combined Authority have today announced that the review into historic child sexual abuse in Oldham will be published this coming Monday, 20 June 2022.
I have today requested an Extraordinary Council meeting for 6pm on Monday 27 June so residents can ask questions and Councillors from all parties, can discuss the findings together.
Questions can be submitted online, on the Oldham Council website, up until 12noon the day before the meeting”.

Screen Shot 2022-06-18 at 12.36.54

Whilst the Leader’s Facebook post was welcome, it seems an odd way to go about such an important issue. There is nothing relating to the publication date of the CSE Review, or the Extraordinary meeting, on the news section of Oldham Council website and, only if you are familiar with its navigation, would you know where to search amongst a complex array of meeting agendas.

Similarly, and more surprisingly, there is no mention of the publication date on the Mayor’s Greater Manchester Combined Authority website since 2nd May, 2022 when it was announced the Review would be released ‘before the end of June’.

Cllr Chadderton has also made no announcement about the CSE Review on her Twitter feed, used almost exclusively to broadcast Council business.

Indeed, journalists were sworn to secrecy about the actual publication date when a selected group, including the author of this article, Neil Wilby, were notified on Friday afternoon of an event at which it would be made public. On Sunday morning (19th June, 2022), as this article is written, the host venue, has still not been made known. Given that accredited court reporters are routinely trusted with the most sensitive of materials, at inquests, public or departmental inquiries and serious criminal trials, for example, it seems an excessively cautious (and mildly offensive) way of treating them by the Mayor’s office.

There have been no embargoed copies of the report provided to those same journalists, who will be expected, in a period of two hours, to skim read and make notes from a report, expected to be around 300 pages in length, before it is made publicly available. Also the logistics of arriving at an as yet unknown destination, on the first day of a week of restricted timetables due to the rail strike, are not inconsiderable. Especially to those of us travelling from outside the Greater Manchester Region.

The Mayor’s office (and Oldham Council) has also declined to say, in press enquiries made earlier in the week by Neil Wilby, who will be in attendance at those meetings. Of particular interest is whether the chief constable, Stephen Watson, will be present. Greater Manchester Police is expected to face blistering criticism over a range of investigative and disclosure failings. Insiders say he is not relishing the prospect of such criticisms and will duck the meeting if at all possible.

Of secondary interest is whether the GMCA meeting will be chaired by the Deputy Mayor, Beverley Hughes, whose portfolio includes the statutory role of Police and Crime Commissioner. Unarguably, the worst in the country, and by some distance, of those holding PCC positions. Anecdotally, there is some resistance in Oldham Council as to the former MP’s involvement as she is regarded as toxic over her past policing and Parliamentary failings.

Oldham’s Liberal Democrats Leader, Cllr Howard Sykes, had previously called for the Council Leader at the time, Cllr Arooj Shah (as she was then) to make room for a special meeting about the much delayed report into historic, but known, child sexual exploitation in the Borough.

Page last updated Sunday 17th June, 2022 at 1315hrs

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Picture credits: Oldham Council

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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