Sir Howard Bernstein, Manchester City Council, p Manchester City Council

Sir Howard Bernstein died on 22 June 2024 at the age of 71. Credit: via Manchester City Council

GALLERY | Tributes pour in for Sir Howard Bernstein

“Sir Howard was a changemaker who had an innate ability for getting things done – he always found a way and knew no limits,” said Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

Leaders from throughout Greater Manchester, both in the public and private sector, took to social media to pay tribute to the late Sir Howard Bernstein, the former Manchester City Council chief executive who shaped the modern city.

Bernstein died on Saturday at the age of 71.

Below, you will find the words of Manchester City Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig, Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, Northern Powerhouse Partnership chair George Osborne, and more.

Scroll to the bottom for a gallery of Bernstein through the years.

Manchester City Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig

“Sir Howard served Manchester with remarkable distinction. He will be remembered as a driving force in the city’s turnaround from post-industrial decline to the growing, confident and forward-looking city we see today.

“He had boundless energy, strategic vision and a passion for Manchester. In 46 years at the Council, serving as chief executive between 1998 and 2017, he played an integral role in the regeneration and economic growth of the city, from the city centre’s resurgence after the 1996 IRA bomb and the 2002 Commonwealth Games and transformation of East Manchester to the creation and extension of Metrolink.

“He was also integral in the establishment of strong working relationships between the 10 Greater Manchester councils, culminating in the establishment of Greater Manchester Combined Authority in 2011 and a series of historic devolution agreements which transferred power and resources away from Westminster and Whitehall to our region.

“He leaves an incredible legacy in the transformation of the city.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

“All of us here in Greater Manchester are deeply saddened by the loss of Sir Howard Bernstein. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his vision and leadership throughout four decades of public service, our city region would not be the place that it is today.

“I am privileged to have known and worked with Sir Howard since I was first elected to Parliament in 2001. I had total admiration for his tenacity in representing his city and its residents, and always valued his counsel and friendship during that time.

“Sir Howard was the architect of modern Manchester; the regeneration of the city centre throughout the 1990s owed much to his diligent leadership and ability to build partnerships with the private sector. The success of the Commonwealth Games in 2002 left a legacy that is still being felt today. He was someone who could get along with everyone and make connections at all levels. Working alongside Sir Richard Leese, he helped attract billions of pounds of investment while skillfully running one of the largest councils in the UK.

“Sir Howard was a changemaker who had an innate ability for getting things done – he always found a way and knew no limits. Regional devolution, the creation of the office of Mayor and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and the Northern Powerhouse – these are all achievements in which Sir Howard played a pivotal role. Perhaps his most significant contribution was to redefine our ambitions for both Manchester and Greater Manchester, setting the foundations on which we now build.

“Our city region is a poorer place for his loss.”

Greater Manchester chief executive Eamonn Boylan

“I had the privilege of working for and with Sir Howard Bernstein from the mid-1980s, initially on the Hulme regeneration project which transformed one of the most challenged neighbourhoods in Manchester, and subsequently on a wide range of regeneration initiatives across the city.

“In latter years I supported Sir Howard in developing the wider Greater Manchester agenda and securing the programme of devolution deals through the 2010s.

“Sir Howard had a clear vision and massive ambition for our city and city region. That ambition was matched by his energy and determination to deliver.

“Greater Manchester is a much better place because of Sir Howard. I owe him a massive debt and I was proud to have called him both a colleague and a friend.”

Allied London chairman, chief executive, and founder Michael Ingall

“You will only have at most a handful of people in your life that will be your mentors and your leaders. I had two, both called Howard and both very proud Jewish men.

“Howard Stanton my ex-chief executive at Allied London PLC, from 1995 to 2000 was a great man and supported me so much, some of it at a difficult time.

“Sir Howard Bernstein, however, was a man I feel so privileged to have known and worked with from 1996 to 2024.

“Many people will now write about what Sir Howard achieved and what he did and didn’t do, some may even find fault as is the way today.

“For me, Howard was a close friend, and so often that mentor. I knew he knew what we were doing, and he knew that I knew what we were doing. We had a bond. That friendship enabled me to experience his real side, and it was one of love, empathy, intelligence, determination, and ambition. I never witnessed anger, only frustration, and when we needed to talk serious he always had the ability to listen and I would listen to him intently. I never witnessed politics only perception and intelligence, if it wasn’t his vision he didn’t care, if he thought it would benefit his city he would be very quick to get on board and he never ever took long to get it.

“Of course, Howard was a politician, but he knew dabbling in party politics just wouldn’t achieve the bold and ambitious agendas. He understood the system, he just left himself free of all that so he could cross the house when he needed to. His agenda was to deliver the projects that would make a difference, and that agenda is now a long list of achievements.

“I was lucky to visit him at his home very recently, I told him how much he meant to me and that I loved him, he looked at me and repeated a text from nine months ago: ‘You have been and remain one of the most significant persons in my lifetime too. Don’t worry I am told the worst is over for this illness.’

“I knew in my work with him we achieved something remarkable for his and my Grandfather’s City. You see we didn’t do something as a reaction we did some things that served as a preemptive we created things from nothing, some things that have and will be a catalyst for a lot of other things.

“At home, he was surrounded by so many portraits and photographs of all his wonderful family, so many people will miss Howard. I will miss him hugely.

“God Bless you Howard, and God bless your family my thoughts and condolences are with them.

“Howard, I am sure you will continue your work in a higher place.”

Relentless Group owner Gary Neville

“I’m truly devastated to hear the news that Sir Howard Bernstein has passed away. It is difficult to put into words the impact he had on Manchester but also on me personally.

“His love, vision and boldness for our city was unmatched. In the challenging world of politics and public service, he was a man who got things done and played the biggest role in building the Manchester we see today.

“Someone whom I view as my greatest mentor in my post-football career. Just like Sir Alex gave me a chance in football, Sir Howard gave me a chance in my second love, property.

“I remember my first ever Mipim with him and he asked me ‘Can you deliver?’ and I remember feeling the weight of responsibility I was taking on. I replied yes. He said, ‘Good, let’s go for it’.

“When we hit problems with St Michaels he guided me and also wasn’t afraid to pull me to one side and tell me where I was going wrong. There were those that wanted to take the project off me when we made mistakes and got stuck but he stood strong. I will never forget the loyalty and trust he had in me.

“I’ve been fortunate to spend some time with him in the last few months and his words and advice are gold.

“The biggest lesson I learned from him was that leadership is about making sure you bring people along with you on the journey. Your idea may be great, but if you haven’t got people on side it won’t work. These lessons were invaluable to me.

“I will miss terribly our conversations/debates about property and particularly about our clubs United and City.

“I want to send all my love to Sir Howard’s family.

“Rest in Peace Sir Howard.”

Vita Group strategic development director Eddie Smith

“Howard was one of a kind.  With the support of the political leadership at the council he had the vision, the creativity, the courage, and the energy to put in place the necessary relationships, the actions, and initiatives to reverse the decline of the city and, over a 30-year period,  move the city forwards to where it is today.

“He was a demanding but caring chief executive. It was a privilege to have worked with him for so long on such an exciting journey”

Senior development director at Landsec U+I Laura Percy

“We’re very sad to hear of the passing of Sir Howard Bernstein. Through his long career, Sir Howard served the City of Manchester with great distinction, passion, and vision. As chief executive, he was central to the formation of The Mayfield Partnership and as we continue our journey to transform this part of the city over the coming years we’ll make sure we deliver a fitting tribute to an inspiring man. His family and friends are in our thoughts.”

Bruntwood chief executive Chris Oglesby

“Much will be said about Howard but possibly his greatest legacy is the culture he created in the city. Over the years we worked together, his commitment to strategy, belief in collaboration, and sheer hard work was unwavering.

“It left me and so many others with a personal sense of obligation to do our best to ensure that legacy continues to live on and is reflected in everything we do.”

Manchester City Council chief executive Joanne Roney

“Sir Howard was an outstanding public servant who devoted himself to Manchester and made an enormous contribution towards shaping the city we see today.

“It was a privilege to succeed him as chief executive of this dynamic council and forward-looking city – both of which owe a great deal to his legacy.”

Mosscare St Vincents Housing chief executive Charlotte Norman

“You can feel the imprint of Sir Howard Bernstein everywhere in Manchester.  A phenomenal public servant who did so much for Manchester, GM and the north.  Thinking of his family and all who knew him.”

Former Siemens chief executive Juergen Maier

“So sad to learn of Sir Howard Bernstein’s death. Definitely a true hero for all he achieved for our city.

“I will personally miss his inspiration, amazing leadership, and calling me ‘lad’.

“My thoughts and best wishes are with his family and loved ones.”

Co-op group chief executive Shirine Khoury-Haq

“I am so saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Howard Bernstein. There was no greater champion of Manchester, which Co-op is so proud to call home. Much of what we have here in our great city is a legacy of his love for it. On behalf of our colleagues and members, we send condolences, thoughts and prayers to Sir Howard’s family and friends.”

Tom Stannard, chief executive of Salford City Council

“All our thoughts, love and condolences are with the family of Sir Howard Bernstein today, an iconic figure in the recent history of the great city of Manchester and our city region, who we will all miss deeply. He leaves an indelible and hugely positive legacy to us all. Rest in peace.”

Euan Kellie, founder of Euan Kellie Property Solution

“It is difficult to know what to write about Sir Howard, which hasn’t already been said many times already (all of it true of course).

“As someone who has meticulously studied and documented the regeneration of Manchester over the last almost 30 years, all I can say is that we were so lucky to have Sir Howard at the helm of the ship.

“In particular, his energy and focus after the bomb in 1996 was inspirational – he wanted to see the city centre bigger and better than ever before, and in as short a time as possible.

“And when I came to write and publish my book ‘Rebuilding Manchester’ in 2010 Sir Howard was of course more than happy to meet with me and share his thoughts and stories of how Manchester’s regeneration had come about.

“He also very generously provided the Foreword for the book and was kind enough to attend the launch event and deliver a short speech.

“Indeed I think this paragraph from his Foreword summarises how he saw the city:

“‘For me, Manchester is not just a city that looks to the past, it is a creative, forward-looking city. The people here have an industrious work ethic and thirst for innovation which creates a unique opportunity.’

“A very special, and unique man, who will be very sadly missed. Rest in Peace Sir Howard, and thank you.”

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram

“Few people can claim to have had a bigger role in shaping local government or the fortunes of a great Northern city than Howard Bernstein.

“After decades overseeing Manchester’s renaissance, it was a pleasure to have him join the Liverpool Strategic Futures Panel to help shape our work.

“His humour, with, advice, and boundless expertise were an enormous asset that will leave a lasting legacy in our region.

“May his memory be a blessing.”

Lancashire Cricket chair Andy Anson

“I am devastated to hear of Sir Howard’s passing this morning. He has been my mentor, friend and supporter for many years, and I will greatly miss his sage advice, insight and our frequent, fun exchanges. Our differing football allegiances were always a source of entertaining conversation, and I know he would enjoy the fact that he has left us with the blue side of Manchester out in front”

“He made an immeasurable contribution to Lancashire Cricket and his legacy is far-reaching. Many Lancashire supporters will not be aware of his unrelenting work behind the scenes, but he gave the club so much and never asked for anything in return.  This work includes major infrastructure projects for the club, and its wider community, the benefits of which will be felt for decades to come. The redevelopment of Emirates Old Trafford over the last 15 years would not have happened without him.

“Under Sir Howard’s leadership, the club has overcome considerable challenges and his incredible hard work and dedication during those periods has helped to guide us into a brighter and more sustainable future.

“When English Cricket has recently had to address the significant issues around equality, diversity and inclusivity, Lancashire were already well positioned, because Sir Howard held these values close to his heart and had always ensured they were central to Lancashire Cricket’s decision-making.

“He was an inspiration to all those around him and had a huge impact on our great Club. He will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by the many friends, colleagues and members he leaves behind at Emirates Old Trafford.

“The thoughts of everyone at Lancashire Cricket are with his family and friends at this extremely sad time.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership chair George Osbourne

“So sad Howard Bernstein has died – one of the towering public servants of the last 50 years – the father of modern Manchester and my partner on the Northern Powerhouse. He showed everyone else what creative local government working with business can achieve.”

Your Comments

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I worked over 40 years for Manchester City Council and Sir Howard helped make the authority one of the best in the country, it was an absolute privilege to work under such a wonderful person, RIP sir Howard

By Stewart Wilson

Without his leadership, Manchester would not have seen the fantastic development we see today. Our city owes Sir Howard a great deal for his vision, leadership and hard work. RIP !

By Another Manc

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