Gordon Brown and Chris Oglesby led the tributes as business leaders and politicians gathered to toast Sir Richard Leese’s leadership of Manchester City Council, which will come to an end next week after 25 years.
More than 300 people attended the special event at Manchester Central on Thursday including councillors, council officers, leaders and chief executives of other Greater Manchester authorities, metro mayor Andy Burnham, leaders of other core cities and representatives from education, culture, voluntary and health sectors.
The property industry was represented by John Hughes of ASK; Mike Ingall of Allied London; Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash; Chris Oglesby from Bruntwood, who spoke in his role as chair of the independent Business Sounding Board; as well as Fred Done, Gary Neville and senior figures from Deloitte, Select Property Group, Manchester Life, Muse Developments, Capital & Centric, Savills, Sheppard Robson, Hodder + Partners, Property Alliance Group, OBI, Pro-Manchester and Renaker.
Oglesby described Leese as a “brilliant socialist political leader of Manchester for the last 25 years,” adding that “his relationship with business has ensured a conscious capitalism with a culture of collaboration and a sense of civic duty has prevailed in its economy.”
He finished by saying that Leese “leaves the city in great shape, its economy thriving in the growth sectors of the 4th Industrial Revolution, with companies that want to access the diverse talent of its population and are prepared to work to ensure its citizens have the opportunity and inclusive environment to develop the skills required, a city that is focused on dealing with health inequalities and that will lead the way in the journey to a net zero carbon world.”
The civic dinner was held to thank Leese for his remarkable contribution to the city, and was not a retirement or leaving event. He will remain a ward councillor until May 2022. The evening was hosted by TV presenter Lucy Meacock, who gave up her time for free as did all performers involved.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Labour party leader Keir Starmer were among those who could not attend but who sent video messages which were played on the night.
The event closed with poet Tony Walsh reading This Is The Place, his ode to Manchester made internationally famous when it was read at the vigil after the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017.
Leader elect Cllr Bev Craig, who takes up the top job on 1 December after 25 years of Leese’s leadership, presented him with a commemorative book containing messages from those attending and invited to the event and photos from moments throughout his leadership.