Bev Craig, Manchester City Council, P Manchester City Council
At the May elections Craig won more than 70% of the vote to retain her Burnage seat. Credit: MCC

Manchester’s new leader – Meet Bev Craig

Dan Whelan

Tackling the city’s affordable housing shortage and improving health and social equality are likely to be high on Cllr Bev Craig’s agenda after she was picked to succeed long-time leader Sir Richard Leese, 70.  

Originally from Belfast, the 36-year-old Burnage councillor secured 51% of the vote when Manchester Labour met to select its first new leader in 25 years tonight. She is the city council’s first female leader.

After a quarter of a century under the same leadership, Craig’s arrival in the post in December will mean changes.  

Following her victory, she has a mandate to deliver them. 


At a glance

Craig graduated from Manchester University in 2007 with a degree in politics and modern history and went on to gain a masters in political science.

A PhD exploring class representation and diversity in UK politics followed.

She was first elected as councillor for Burnage in 2011.

In May, Craig was re-elected, winning more than 70% of the vote.

She ran on five main policies she described as:

    • Fairer: keep building more affordable housing, reduce poverty and support the vulnerable
    • Cleaner: Take action on litter and fly-tipping
    • Safer: Call for more police to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour and safer roads for all
    • Greener: Tackling the Climate Crisis, planting more trees and investment in parks and green spaces
    • Supporting you: Continue supporting local community groups, and the hundreds of individual residents I help each year.

Social equality 

In recent weeks, Craig has been outspoken about the government’s decision to rescind the £20-a-week universal credit uplift, saying it would throw “tens of thousands of Mancunians into despair this winter” and cost residents a combined £60m. 

During her tenure, Craig is expected to target improving Manchester’s poorest communities, while continuing to lobby central government for funds to do this. 

Craig was also instrumental in launching Manchester as a Real Living Wage City earlier this year. Craig, who is gay, leads on LGBT issues for the city. 

Following Manchester’s decision to increase council tax by almost 5% in March to raise cash for public services, she criticised the government for “abandoning” social care in comments to the Manchester Evening News. 

Affordable housing 

The new leader is expected to take a tough stance on affordable housing. 

Critics of Leese’s administration claim not enough has been done to force developers to meet the city council’s 20% affordable housing policy. 

In future, developers may be asked to sacrifice profit in order to deliver much-needed affordable housing, one council source told Place North West. 

The new leader is also reportedly planning to throw the doors of the city open to new players in a bid to freshen up Manchester’s regular pool of developers. 

Craig has been passionate about social housing since she was first elected as a councillor in 2011; she served on the board of Southway Housing Trust from that year until 2018. 

Health 

Health is also likely to feature high on the new leader’s agenda.  

Prior to being appointed as deputy leader in May, she spent four years as executive member for adult services, health, wellbeing and inclusion. 

The latter part of that stint saw her play a key role in Manchester City Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Craig also spent four years as deputy chair of the Manchester Health and Care Commissioning and three as the co-chair of the Manchester Local Care Organisation.

Your Comments

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Well I guess we should enjoy the current amount of development in the city because it looks like it won’t be lasting for much longer with this new leader after reading some of her policies and comments. A real shame as Manchester was starting to become a real global force. It now looks like developers will be looking elsewhere – Leeds or Liverpool? Can’t blame them really.

By New Wave

I’m just not sure about New Wave’s comments. Salford has a different emphasis to Manchester, and has done OK, a lot of the land use strategies and strategic partners are in place from the Leese era to create continuity. The city can’t develop blind to some of social justice issues that are out there, that will eventually bring a much bigger backlash. You only have to look at the Tories to see truly dysfunctional and conflicted attitudes to planning and development.

By Rich X

Yes, regressive, a “Manchester is full” attitude to home building

By Floyd

36 and running a city the size of
Manchester?? It seems you guys down the other end of the East Lancs Road are following in our footsteps in appointing inexperienced leaders who will probably be more interested in identity politics. The new leader of Manchestet CC and the Mayor of Liverpool will get on like a house on fire.

By Old Hall Street

Why does Manchester’s current list of developers need “freshening up”. They have done a great job imo. Many areas of wasteland around the city regenerated bringing jobs and prosperity. Most cities would give there right arm for the development Manchester is currently seeing. You only need to look to other cities not to far away to see the carnage bad developers can have. By all means throw the doors open but who will come and will they be better than what we currently have? Maybe as well as welcoming new ones also work with those that are currently based here and don’t take them for granted.

By Bob

@New Wave – I have to agree with you. I can’t see Manchester’s gap to London being bridged any further and in some ways unfortunately I think it will regress somewhat. Devastated.

By Manctopia

Never had a proper job then? And now expected to run a city the size of Manchester? Doesn’t bode well I’m afraid

By Anonymous

Providing she lives up to her policies, I actually think think this could be good news for city.

By Anonymous

Let`s see what those who said it was time for a change are saying this time next year.

By Anonymous

Good luck to her! Looks a great appointment. Depressing to see the usual cyncial comments below, it is overdue time for a generational step change in Manchester’s leadership. We are in a stronger place and don’t need a ‘development at any costs’ mentality anymore – let’s build better and fairer.

By urbanista

Shocking, what a disgrace to be running on these policies, Manchester will definitely be going down the pan now:

Fairer: keep building more affordable housing, reduce poverty and support the vulnerable
Cleaner: Take action on litter and fly-tipping
Safer: Call for more police to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour and safer roads for all
Greener: Tackling the Climate Crisis, planting more trees and investment in parks and green spaces
Supporting you: Continue supporting local community groups, and the hundreds of individual residents I help each year.

By Curly

I doubt all the trees MCC have allowed to be destroyed along the side of Collyhurst Village on Rochdale Road, to build yet more privately owned unaffordable houses, whilst the likes of Collyhurst Street and Varley Street through to Bradford Road is like dodge the potholes & other extremely damaged parts of the roads is deemed acceptable to the clowns running the council….

By Mike on a Bike

Oh dear, she seems a hard leftist. Manchester had a good run up till now at least… Even worse she’s on a board of a housing trust. Destroying business confidence, investment and stalling redevelopment of wasteland. I expect a new sink estate in every area, 1980s here we come!

By Alan's GTX Jacket

A climate-focussed councillor who bailed on the Levenshulme and Burnage Active Neighbourhood, which would have improved Air Quality locally. Practice what you preach.

By Greenwashing

Wanting more affordable housing, cleaner streets, more green spaces and reduced crime doesn’t mean that the new leader of Manchester City Council is anti development. Surely lower crime rates a cleaner and greener environment will aid development not discourage it.

By Monty

Wow, she has ticked a fair few boxes on her way up , hard left all the way! It’s funny how we vote the hard left out nationally but it persists in a few of our big cities. Oh well, we had a good run, lots of development still in the pipeline!

By Anonymous

So she has an academic background in politics, history and political science.

Running a city the size and nature of Manchester will require a thorough understanding of economics. Does she really have the breadth of knowledge and skills for the role?

By Callard

Glad to see the comments on affordable housing, there has to be a balance and Manchester should keep an identity not follow unaffordable cities like London and NYC in that way.

By Charlotte

Pity. Whenever the hard left get in it’s always the race to the bottom., identity politics , no understanding of economics or even basic business planning . Basically a city run by a student union. You couldn’t make it up.

By Leftwatch

Really good to see and I really hope the Council will now at last enforce affordable housing, quality homes (not the rabbit hutch build to rents flying up) and try and create some green in the concrete jungle. It’s a great city but there is so much room for improvement. A diversification of developers is needed.
Finally, despite the fact she notes she wants the fact she is a woman to be uninteresting – as a female in the industry sadly today it is interesting, but also most welcomed.

By Young professional

I find these politicians involved in identity politics, have had to walk such a fine line to get to a position of importance,by not upsetting anyone along the way, that as soon as they have to make an important descicion which they will know will upset somebody, the whole house of cards falls in, and calls of betrayal and power hungy will soon be made.

By Geoff

Old Hall Street – Regarding her Age, at 36 the new leader hasnt had a chance to upset anybody yet, and probably has a sanitised twitter account.

By Geoff

I fear Manchester is about to make the same mistake as Liverpool . Poor leadership with a hard left agenda wanting to change the world and take on the government ultimately to the detriment of the city. Manchester was truly on its way to being the real “2nd” city however with this leader could now falter , what a shame

By Paul

She’s going to frighten off the developers for sure with those policies. Will she really be running the city though?! Come on ,realistically that is not her role. She will throw in some opinions now and again, but we all know the Council isn’t lead by the ‘Leader’ and never has been. Especially when it comes to regeneration.

By Steve

From the comments I have read, I think your perspective depends on whether you want to make money from the city or actually help it to become a fairer and better city for the existing population. Manchester will still be a massive draw for developers – but if the City can use this to garner better and fairer developments, this will be all to the good for the existing residents whom have been priced out of the city, yet given nowhere else to go. In turn this will make it more attractive to investment from outside and within. I hope she has the confidence to balance her admiral policies with strategic temptations for outside investment – not an easy task. It will be easier for her detractors to blame her politics or her age etc. whatever happens. Best of luck to her.

By Anon

All sounds good to me. Lots of cynical comments about how developers might be scared away etc etc – for what it’s worth to a few who have commented above, the potential for your personal interests (development at all costs) to be ignored is exactly how others in the city feel when their concerns are ignored in favour of another big tower in the middle of their neighbourhood. Time to suck it up and get on with life – that’s the message normally isn’t it?

By Alex

All those moaning about the “hard left” – have you seen the state our country is in? Petrol shortages, UC removed plunging more into poverty, gas prices about to go through the roof, food shelves empty… but yes let’s blame the lefties

By Disgruntled Goat

I’m shedding a tear for all those trusted partners who’s lives and businesses will be so massively affected by this change in administration….

By anonymous

Why do people talk as if there has been a mass exodus of local residents in the city? 25 years ago Manchester city centre had a very small population as it was filled with shops, restaurants, offices, run-down disused warehouses and surface-level carparks. Who exactly has been priced out of the city?

By Big Dub

Hard left she may be but Manchester has enough of its own gravity now to withstand the worst of the excesses that such inexperience and lack of knowledge will bring , a little like London does despite it own problems rather than the Liverpool model which demonstrates decades of failure.

By Anonymous