(Please scroll down for regular updates, the most recent just below the Preamble)
This feed will go live at 5pm when protesters, self-styling as The Rabble and attached to notorious, unemployed Tameside conspiracy theorist, Raja Miah, are set to assemble in Parliament Square near the famous Annie Kenney statue.
The meeting is set to open at 6pm (read more background here). A central feature of the meeting will be questions from members of the public (and the author of this article, Neil Wilby). Standing Orders are very likely to be suspended (at Agenda item 3) so that every public question can be answered. There is also likely to be some penetrating questions of the Labour leadership from opposition benches: Not all are happy with the Council’s official line of ‘it was all a long time ago, we apologise, let’s move on’.
There is expected to be a public order police presence both inside and outside the Civic Centre to ensure that the democratic process is not unnecessarily disrupted, whilst maintaining the inalienable right of members of the public to make legitimate protest.
Full Extraordinary Meeting Agenda can be found at this link here.
The full Oldham CSE Assurance Review report, that it the sole topic of discussion this evening, can be found at this link.
Cllr Chadderton has said that despite the fact that no evidence to support the defamatory and divisive narrative promoted on social by Raja Miah and his Rabble, the Council will not take action against any of them. In answer to a question from former councillor, Pete Davis (presently the Mayor’s consort) she asserted that no councillors were found to be paedophiles or covering up for paedophiles.
She continues to propagate the narrative that the Council will apologise, sounding from her wholly insincere it must be said, but that’s all victims and campaigners are going to get, other than ‘Lessons Learned, we are doing better’.
The meeting has now moved onto Members’ questions. Again, the full questions and answers to these will be posted on a separate page tomorrow or later in the week. There is a transcribing difficulty at Neil Wilby Media HQ.
The overarching theme of council, police and Mayor Burnham in their response to questions is that there is nothing wrong with the Assurance Review report and no wrongdoing by Oldham Council officers or councillors is disclosed. C/Supt Bowen, so impressive when appearing in the Council Chamber last October, has, so far, simply spouted the corporate lines. Overlooking the national notoriety attached to his force over lengthy and elaborate ‘cover-ups’. Unless it has been missed, with the attendant noise from the public gallery, Chris Bowen has managed to avoid giving a straight answer to any straight question. Apologies to him if I have.
Public questions – thirty five in total – are to be read out by chief executive, Harry Catherall.
Those questions and their answers will be posted on a separate page tomorrow.
The first questions were posed by ‘Sophie’ (who has waived her anonymity) to C/Supt Bowen and Cllr Chadderton. It is fair to say that the questions were not answered directly and represented a further dodge of some very important issues. Not least the question of whether the police and council will fund a solicitor and barrister to pursue appropriate civil claims (human rights and personal injury). ‘Lessons learned’ is the central theme of the replies to Sophie. Which is, precisely, what she does not want to hear.
This is a train crash for Oldham Council and Cllr Amanda Chadderton, in particular. Her trademark impatience and caustic nature present entirely the wrong tone. ‘We will not be calling for another Review’ she says.
The Mayor, Andy Burnham, is now on his feet and claims that the Home Office has been involved at every step of the way and defends both the independence and quality of his Assurance Review. Citing the confidence of Maggie Oliver in Reviewers, Newsam and Ridgway.
‘Report makes clear there was no co-ordinated cover-up between the Council and GMP’ says Cllr Chadderton. She was Safeguarding Lead in 2014. Speaking so quickly, and in her trademark pugnacious tone, it is very difficult to follow what she is saying but, essentially, the message is all was good in Oldham Council since 2011 at least. Her final point is that there more children in care than ever in Greater Manchester, 3001 young people at risk.
Cllr Howard Sykes thanks the Review Team for their work. He is angry and disgusted. The report is horrific. What has changed and how are things better now. How many present members of staff still work at Oldham Council. What is being done about accountability of these officers? Similarly, GMP officers and accountability? What is being done to hunt down the offenders known to GMP? We have worked tirelessly, cross-party to ensure that improvements are made to ensure that no child suffers again in the future.
Cllr Pam Byrne was similarly scathing. The Review is heartbreaking reading. A catalogue of failures now disclosed. Many named operations by GMP that all appear to be dogged by failures. The Council’s Scrutiny Committee repeatedly asked for updates but eventually all that happened was extra training was arranged. She earned a loud cheer when she asserted that the report should not have been ‘owned’ by GMCA. This is not the end, but the beginning the Conservative party will continue to ask for an indecent inquiry
Cllr Hobin thanked Debbie Barratt-Cole, Raja Miah, Maggie Oliver and ‘Sophie’ for keeping the issue in the public eye. To very loud cheers and sustained applause. He launched a highly personal attack on former Leaders, Sean Fielding and Arooj Shah. ‘I do not to want to hear ‘Lessons Learned’ from this Council any more’.
Cllr Hobin consistently refused to sit down when asked by the Mayor. He summarised by saying the report was appalling and key interviews were not undertaken or truncated. Not fit for purpose, not worth the paper it was printed on.
Gerard Jones, Managing Director of Children’s Services, asserts that safeguarding is at a much higher level than previously. A Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is at the heart of their initiatives. More checks at taxi ranks an licensed premises. New Members’ Code of Conduct. A complex safeguarding hub co-exists with GMP and criminals – not in the chamber Mr Jones is sure – should be dealt with through the proper channels. ‘We are on the side of victims’ he says. ‘Lessons have been learned, we are not complacent’, he added.
C/Supt Bowen: In essence: ‘Safeguarding was not good enough during the period covered by the report. I will not offer any excuses for the failings but can confirm that GMP has changed and we are better at understanding abuse and take appropriate action where necessary’. We did not wait for the report before making changes and £2.3 million has been invested in child safeguarding. A further uplift to the investigative team has been made with 106 officers now deployed on an investigation codenamed Operation Sherwood.
Meeting opened at 6.03pm. Apologies for absence: Cllrs Sheldon, Sharp (as noted earlier) plus Cllr Lancasterand Cllr Hindle. Four councillors declared interests over being in receipt of GMP pensions, they included the Mayor, Cllr Elaine Garry.
After prayers, the motion to suspend standing orders was approved. This will allow extended time for public questions to be answered and closing speeches from selected stakeholders.
A video was played recorded by Malcolm Newsam. He is not present to answer questions from either the public or councillors. He asserts that the Review is ‘thorough and independent’. He discloses that there is a confidential section not available for public viewing. As reported elsewhere, there is no evidence disclosed that supports the allegations on social media (mainly by Raja Miah and his acolytes) that there was a cover-up by either council officers or councillors.
One of the most important part of the presentation concerned ‘Sophie’ and the grotesque failings of both the police and the council following her ordeal as child rape victim.
A second important part concerned Shahib Ahmed better known as ‘Daddy’. The failings over this convicted child sex abuser, belatedly convicted in 2012 have been very widely reported in the regional and national press.
The protesters who will occupy a section of the public gallery have been taken to an upstairs room in the Civic Centre. As expected, the mood is sombre and not a little attritional. Raja Miah and one of his main sidekicks, Warren Bates, are in the public gallery.
District Commander, Chief Superintendent Chris Bowen, is representing Greater Manchester Police at the meeting. Chief Constable Stephen Watson declined to attend despite having previously indicated that he would. Greater Manchester Combined Authority are not represented. The Mayor, Andy Burnham was invited by the Oldham Council Leader, Amanda Chadderton, but it is understood he did not respond for several days at least. Oldham Council have, surprisingly, declined to explain the absence of his Deputy, Beverley Hughes. There is, however, a name tag for Mr Burnham on the dais.
An early point of interest on the Agenda, apart from apologies for absence, will be Members’ Declarations of Interest: Two sitting councillors, Chris Gloster and Mark Wilkinson (another Raja MIah cultist) were both long serving officers in Greater Manchester Police. Neither was interviewed, and according to the report, submitted any evidence. GMP as a force was the subject of robust criticism in the CSE report. There is no imputation whatsoever of any wrongdoing by either councillor but it might strike some members of the public that no contact was made with either by the Independent Reviewers, Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway.
Similarly, there are three long-serving Asian Members on Oldham Council, dating back to the 1990s when Offender A (widely identified as Shabir ‘Daddy’ Ahmed) was both an employee of the Council and a member of the local Labour Party. They are Cllrs Riaz Ahmad, Shoab Akhtar and Abdul Jabbar. There is absolutely no suggestion, or imputation, of wrongdoing on the part of any of the three in this regard. But it strikes this journalist, and may concern a large section of residents in the Borough that these three, questioned appropriately, may have been able to provide valuable leads or intelligence. Particularly, in relation to Daddy’s associates, the granting of his taxi licence and redundancy pay-off in 2006 after he had been charged with perverting the course of justice. A matter over which he was found guilty just three months after leaving Oldham Council. The Independent Reviewers are silent on the circumstances pertaining to that conviction.
There are already two notable apologies for absence, Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Graham Sheldon and his Deputy, Cllr Bethany Sharp.
A cautionary note is that apologies circulated to all councillors before the last meeting. on 25th May, 2022, did vary, significantly in some cases, from those actually in attendance.
Cllr Robert Barnes has told his followers on social media that he is ‘flying back from holiday’.
Amidst internal strife within her Party, Cllr Pam Byrne will deputise for Cllr Sheldon as Leader for the evening. She, along with the other Saddleworth-based Tories (Cllr Sheldon plus Cllr Luke Lancaster, Cllr Max Woodvine and newly elected Cllr Chris McManus), have sought to distance themselves from their Oldham counterparts and their association with Miah (read more here).
Page last updated Monday 27th June, 2022 at 2020hrs
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