Bev Craig MCC p.PNW

Craig: increasing the Factory International budget was a no-brainer. Credit: Place North West

Q&A | Bev Craig on her debut year in Manchester’s hotseat

The city council’s leader sat down with Place North West to talk about scaling up affordable housing delivery, the rising cost of projects like Factory International, and what to watch out for in 2023.

Cllr Bev Craig has been pleased with the pace of progress in the twelve months since she replaced long-time leader Sir Richard Leese. Here she reflects on 2022. 

Craig’s responses have been edited for brevity and clarity. 

How do you reflect on your first year as leader of the city council? 

I’m enjoying it. I came into the job with optimism and excitement. Three Prime Ministers, God knows how many cabinet ministers, a war, and a cost-of-living crisis later, I am actually feeling quite hopeful. I see that in itself as a success. I’ve been pleased by the speed and the pace at which we’ve been able to do things. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced during your first year in charge? 

The council had done so much over the course of the pandemic, and everybody really needed a rest. To try and bring a freshness and a re-galvanising at a time when everybody frankly just needed a big lie down has been the most challenging part of it. 

I approached it with a very considered view on how you can engender stability, and have just enough level of continuity to not create any problems, but can also then bring your own analysis and shape to it. 

Will the current inflationary environment impact on the city council’s ability to deliver its capital programme? 

It is tough out there. Having reviewed our capital programme, everything’s at risk from rising costs. But nothing’s in the territory of having to be delayed or paused.  

I’d say that’s because we don’t really know what’s coming. 

There are some real challenges going forward around the intersection of low carbon and low cost. 

I think that’s something that the market is going to really have to grapple with in the way that we are. When things don’t have grant funding, it is more difficult to make them stack up.  

Factory tour official MIF MCC p.Factory International

Factory will complete next year. Credit: Pawel Paniczko

Factory International is Manchester’s flagship cultural project, how frustrating was it when that came in so far over budget? 

The decision [to increase the budget by £25m] is pretty stark. Do you increase the final bit of the budget to get it over the line or do you let this building go to waste and sit derelict? it seems like a no-brainer.  

It is going to be brilliant. And the example that I give is that the city council had a similar thing with The Bridgewater Hall in 1996. We don’t look at that and say the council must have been mad to build it. 

Scaling up the delivery of affordable housing across the city was one of your goals a year ago, how has that gone? 

We need all forms of homes at scale and pace in the right places in Manchester to keep the housing market ticking over. 

The challenge is making sure that the targets we put forward are realistic and achievable.  

We picked the 10,000 [affordable homes over the next decade] figure within the housing strategy because we thought it was deliverable. 

If there was a change of government or a significant change in policy, I’d happily up that target tomorrow. 

How difficult has it been to do your job given the political unrest in Westminster? 

Every time a new minister comes into post, if there’s an opportunity to work with them – or if their brief covers the city – as a gesture of goodwill, I write to them.  

I have sent more letters over the last six months than you would ever believe. One minister just forwarded the letter on to his successor. 

I came into this job very clear that I’m here on behalf of the city. I’m not here for party politics and to get on my soapbox all the time. 

But to have had several governments that have different approaches as to how they even listen to or engage with local government is problematic. 

The council is delivering affordable homes through its This City vehicle. Credit: via planning documents

The city council seems to have honed in on Wythenshawe as its next area for growth, what was the thinking behind that? 

Outside of the city centre, many of our district and town centres have got massive, untapped potential. 

Wythenshawe essentially could be the size of Preston city centre when you think about how you can grow it.  

We have significant land assets there that we’re able to work with and we’ve made our £20m pitch to the Levelling Up Fund. If that is successful it means we can move at pace. Without the Levelling Up funding, it will be a slower start, but we’ll still have work to do.  

What else should we look out for in 2023? 

Strangeways to me is a massively exciting one.  

People might fondly look at it as a bit of the city we can get a rip-off North Face jacket for Christmas. But we’re talking about some global organised criminals in drug manufacturing.  For me, opportunities for development go hand in hand with eradicating organised crime. 

We are remaking a long-standing plea to the Ministry of Justice to relocate the prison. If that was to happen, it would enable a significant new area of the city that we’re able to work in. 

At [the former] Central Retail Park there is an opportunity for significant, good-quality job creation.  

We are working in the territory of landing something that does two things. The first fulfils our criteria for significant job creation, but the second also listens to community calls around spaces that are permeable, and spaces that have more green space.  

It won’t just be a public park, we’ve always been really honest about that but we hope it will be really exciting. 

With the benefit of 12 months of experience, what advice would you give to the Bev Craig just starting out as leader? 

It sounds terribly cheesy, but it’s around self-confidence. When I came in, many, many, many people said to me on a daily basis that I had big shoes to fill.  

I think there’s something around how you play that, and how you don’t let it take away from your confidence.  

Your Comments

Read our comments policy

The council has turned a blind eye to the counterfeit street, its been a hotspot for organised crime for decades.

By Anonymous

Bev seems to be doing an excellent job. I only wish Liverpool could have someone of this caliber i particularly like ” I came into this job very clear that I’m here on behalf of the city. I’m not here for party politics and to get on my soapbox all the time. 👍
Oh to have this sentiment in Liverpool

By Paul M - Woolton

The Factory is costing 2 times the original forecast, it was heavily backed financially by the Tories at the planning and commencement stage, and has been further bailed out recently.
It`s always easier to make things happen when you get such help.

By Anonymous

The section of Strangeways has been a breeding ground for crime for decades, and the city council has turned a blind eye. Please get it sorted.

By Convict

Given the pace of the GMSF now Places for Everyone (or no one because of delays) she must be frustrated at the lack of progress. Manchester can’t go it along it needs GMCA to bring forward housing of all tenures including affordable.


The only decent building in the Strangeways area is actually Strangeways. Some of the shops and side streets have potential to be quite quaint and could be a sustainable community linking to Great Clowes Street. There is potential. The businesses off Cheetham Hill Road ,should be relocated to a new business park out of the city centre and with a few exceptions flatten the whole area.Those tatty litter strewn roads are an embarrassment You wouldn’t get such a rundown neglected dive like that, so close to a mainland European city. It is a trait of regional British cities, to have poor quality industrial units ,five minutes from their centres, Birmingham and Leeds are the same. Visitors see these places and are immediately put off by the cities they are visiting . There are some grand buildings on Cheetham Hill Road but these are not maintained by the owners and are not used in a way which enhances them. It will take decades but there is no time like the present Bev.

By Elephant

@Elephant, that’s what happens in a market economy. Even Labour understand that.

By Elephantitis

So it is up to the Council to sort out the deep seated criminal activity in the Strangeways area? Laughable in the extreme. This is the counterfeiting capital of Europe run by well resourced criminals. One for the Police I think!!!!!!!!

By Anonymous


Incorrect. There’s tonnes of rubbish around Strangeways but there’s also a few hidden gems. We can have a good mix of regeneration and redevelopment. Why settle for less when we don’t have to? It’s a unique area and the heritage which does exist should be treated with the same respect as Ancoats if it’s to be as successful.

By Anonymous

I just said that Anonymous. I said that there are a few decent buildings but mainly awful 60s overnight throw ups. Is it on par with Ancoats? I will take a look. Maybe I have been hasty.

By Elephant

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