Lord Peter Smith
Lord Peter Smith, former leader of Wigan Council, was a key figure in the Greater Manchester political scene. Credit: via Wigan Council

Lord Peter Smith dies: ‘Wigan has lost a true champion’

Julia Hatmaker

Lord Smith of Leigh was 76. He played an instrumental role in securing the devolution deal through his work with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in 2014.

That deal gave the GMCA additional powers from Whitehall, including responsibility for local transport, the ability to create a statutory spatial strategy and control over a housing investment fund.

Smith was a ward councillor for Leigh West for 40 years. He spent 27 years as the leader of the Wigan Council, stepping down from the role in 2018. He was awarded the Councillor Lifetime Achievement Award a year later.

He was also chair of the North West Regional Assembly, which set regional planning guidance during the Blair era.

“Peter’s commitment and determination to improve Wigan Borough has driven forward the transformation of our borough,” said Cllr David Molyneux, leader of Wigan Council.

“But Peter was not just a remarkable leader and councillor, he was also a husband, a dad and a very good friend of mine for over 40 years,” Molyneux added. “His death will leave a very big hole in people’s hearts, including mine. It was an honour to serve alongside him as his deputy and I will miss his wisdom and friendship.”

Sir Richard Leese, leader of the Manchester City Council, shared his own condolences.

“I’m very sad to hear of the death of an old friend and comrade, Lord Peter Smith,” Leese said. “Wigan has lost a true champion today.

“Peter was at the heart of his community and a key figure in Greater Manchester politics, greatly admired by those that knew him well,” Leese continued.

“He was a passionate believer in devolution and the need to reform public services to help those who needed it most. His role in GM is often underestimated, but devolution wouldn’t have happened without him.”

Baron Andrew Andonis said he shared an office with Smith in the House of Lords and remembered the late Smith for his sense of humour.

“He had a wonderful sense of humour,” Adonis tweeted. “Including his quip when I asked why he stopped using it. ‘Not close enough to a defibrillator, and since you talk all the time you might not notice why I’m not, Andrew!’

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy tweeted out her thoughts on Smiths’ death.

“Sending sincere condolences to Peter Smith’s family on this difficult day,” she wrote. “Peter was a major figure in Leigh, Wigan and Greater Manchester politics for decades but he was also a family man whose loss will be felt very deeply by those who knew and loved him the most.”

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