After 25 years that saw the reshaping of much of the city, Leese announced he would be leaving his post as Manchester City Council leader on 1 December.
Leese was first elected to the council in 1984 to represent Crumpsall. He became leader in May 1996, a month before the IRA Manchester city centre bomb. During his tenure, the city has grown and its skyline changed with the transformation of the city centre and establishment of the East Manchester urban regeneration company. In the past two decades, Leese oversaw a population increase of nearly 22%, or 118,404 people, according to city data.
Economically, the city has prospered under Leese. Manchester saw its gross value added per head nearly double, increasing from £18,291 in 1998 to £36,136 in 2017 according to the Office of National Statistics.
Leese was knighted for his services to local government in 2006.
Statement from Sir Richard Leese
“This is an entirely personal decision reflecting my personal priorities for the next few years. I want this to be my decision, it had to happen at some time and this is as good a time as any.
“My commitment to the city and the city region remains undiminished and I am confident that with a strong body of councillors determined to deliver the Our Manchester Strategy supported by an excellent political executive, a strategic management team as good as it has ever been, thousands of great council workers, hundreds of enthusiastic partners and good potential candidates to take my place, the work will continue to enable Covid containment and recovery, and build a healthier, wealthier, happier, fairer and greener Manchester.
“It has been an enormous privilege to serve the people of Manchester over this period of time and my heartfelt thanks goes to the thousands of people who have worked with us over the last 25 years.”
An important statement. Well I think so pic.twitter.com/ifSmNq091Q
— Sir Richard Leese (@SirRichardLeese) September 7, 2021
Statement from Manchester City Council chief executive Joanne Roney
“Sir Richard is a towering figure in the life of Manchester, which has been transformed during more than a quarter of a century of his leadership from a declining, post-industrial city to the fastest growing city in the UK which can face the future with confidence.
“His leadership and consistent vision have been integral to that turnaround, guiding the city’s remarkable regeneration and playing a key role in devolution and the integration of health and social care. He has also helped lead the city through some difficult times, including the aftermath of the 2017 Manchester Arena terror attack and most recently of course the challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The strength of the foundations his drive and dedication have helped build over the decades mean that his legacy will endure – from the huge Victoria North development which is transforming the north of the city with much-needed housing and a new river side park – to the city’s commitment to tackling climate change to the improved Greater Manchester-wide health system, you don’t need to look very far to see his influence. We have long-term strategies in place, including the overarching Our Manchester Strategy, which set out a vision for the thriving, inclusive city we aim to be and how we get there, so that everybody has the chance to share in that success.
“It has been a privilege to serve alongside Richard, and together with the rest of Manchester’s leadership team I look forward to continuing that work.”