Sir Richard Leese
Sir Richard Leese is stepping down as leader of Manchester City Council on 1 December. Credit: via Manchester City Council

Sir Richard Leese to step down as Manchester council leader

Julia Hatmaker

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.”

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.”

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Good riddance !

By Annette Lomas

I think a change will be good as the city center is starting to look tired and needs fresh ideas around things like public realm. However I would like to thank Sir Richard for helping take our city to the next level, he has done a superb job during his time. Lets hope his successor is as forward looking and collaborative with Business and Government. We need to take a step forward here not backwards which can so easily happen in these situations.

By Bob

Long overdue

By Meeseeks

I wonder once he has gone and Eddie Smith on the way out that there will be a fairer distribution of work from the cities for planners, architects and constructions firms?

By Dave H

Good, long overdue. Perhaps we can get finally prioritise getting the essential basics done around the city before spiffing millions on vanity projects, no matter how well intentioned, e.g. pot holes -v- that chimney

By Boom

With the exception of Piccadilly which remains an ongoing embarrassment the transformation of the city centre during his tenure has been remarkable. I hope his sucessor carries on the good work.

By Monty

An interesting tenure. Manchester has come a long way so overall, bravo old chap..! However, I think some fresh blood is long overdue…

By Cheshire boy

I share the sentiment of many: Good Riddance!

What a terrible legacy this man has left behind.

By Resident Eville

great news, now get rid of Simpson and Haugh and let’s make Manchester a world class city

By Michael

Manchester is now in a different league altogether, and Richard Leese and Howard Bernstein deserve much of the credit. Some cities could only dream of having leadership like theirs.

By Rob Harris

Looking at the big picture, and for those of us who lived in Manchester during the 1980s and can remember where the city actually was economically, socially and environmentally, Manchester is unrecognisable as a place to live, work and visit compared with where is was in the late 1980s. Sir Richard has been at the heart of that transformation leading the city through a process of re-invention of the city.

Undoubtedly there is still a hell of a lot of work still to be done but as Michael Taylor’s article elsewhere on this website clearly sets out Sir Richard Leese has been an outstanding public servant for Manchester, Greater Manchester and the region.

Oh and for Dave H – I think if you were familiar with the City and the Council you would know that Eddie Smith left in early 2020.

By Anonymous

Yes Manchester has improved immeasurably during his tenure, only the most myopic or those with no knowledge of the city back in the 80s would say otherwise. I shudder when I look down the M62 and see Liverpool a once great city deprived of ideas and investment over that same time period and all because of local politics.

By Anonymous