Councillor will succeed Sir Richard Leese in December
Councillor Bev Craig has been elected by the Manchester Labour Group to succeed Sir Richard Leese as Leader when he steps down in December.
The voting took place yesterday (5 October). Four councillors were in contention – Cllr Craig, Cllr Luthfur Rahman, Cllr Garry Bridges and Cllr Ekua Bayunu. Cllrs Bridges and Bayunu were eliminated in the first round of voting, with Cllrs Craig and Rahman going through to the second round. Cllr Craig reportedly received 48 votes out of 94, with Cllr Rahman receiving 41, meaning Cllr Craig was elected on 51% of the vote. Five voters abstained.
It is the honour of my life to be elected and offered this chance to lead Manchester
Cllr Craig will be both the first female leader and the first openly gay leader of Manchester City Council. She will take over the role from Sir Richard on 1 December 2021.
A little bit of Bev
Bev Craig has been the councillor for Burnage since 2011 and played a key role in Manchester’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic as executive member for adult health and wellbeing. Since May she has been the Statutory Deputy Leader and has responsibility for communications, finance, digital strategy, procurement and social value, legal and corporate property.
She moved to Manchester from Northern Ireland in 2003 to study at Manchester University, where she gained a first-class degree in politics and modern history. She went on to do postgraduate study at the same university, studying Class and Diversity in the UK Parliament.
After university, Bev worked as an organiser for UNISON, concentrating on social care and was a board member for Southway Housing Trust. She is currently deputy chair of Manchester Health and Care Commissioning - a partnership between Manchester City Council and NHS Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group. According to her Twitter bio she "does fun stuff too; likes outdoors, sport and adventures".
A quick message from new leader @bevcraig, @SirRichardLeese and @patkarney pic.twitter.com/BeMKxYOpQ2
— Manchester Labour (@McrLabour) October 6, 2021
Craig’s List – priorities for the future
Each of the candidates will have circulated a manifesto to the Labour group setting out their priorities should they be elected leader. While the process surrounding the vote was kept strictly under wraps, her previous work gives clues as to how she will tackle her new role. According to Cllr Craig’s register of interests, she is a member of UNISON, the Socialist Health Association and a board member at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies. Her previous work on health and social care means that may also be high on her list.
Cllr Craig’s association with the Centre for Local Economies gives an indication of how her approach to the economy will differ to Sir Richard’s. CLES is the national organisation for local economies, promoting community wealth building and “more inclusive local economies” and is associated with the "Preston" model.
Community wealth building was developed as a corrective to the current economic trends which are thought to encourage inequality. One of its key aims is progressive procurement – that is the council attempts to procure goods and services from local companies and/or companies that have excellent records of social and environmental benefits to their communities. So we can potentially expect a shift in the procurement process and more wealth being retained within the city region.
Housing is a key theme for Cllr Craig since her tenure at Southway Housing Trust. Cllr Craig recently added her name to Shelter’s open letter to Michael Gove, to urge him in his new role as housing secretary to build social housing. She told Housing Action:
“What is happening now is that, if we aren’t careful, Manchester risks its past success if it sows the seeds of future failure, and we need to proactively intervene in the housing market before it’s too late. What I mean is, the city is still incredibly attractive to people to come and live here, but if we build to only to new demand, our existing communities could be forced out. There are fewer and fewer hard-to-rent areas in the city. People talk about the high rises being empty asset boxes but there are very few empties when you look into it – developers are seeing good turnover and yield.
“How can we protect the communities already here? How can we ensure places are actually liveable in? I believe, for example, that you can defend green spaces by giving priority to a coherent housing strategy - one that takes into account not just homes but all the other services and assets that make up a neighbourhood and which make up quality of life.
“We can’t solve everything immediately – socially, intellectually, financially - but Manchester, and Greater Manchester has an opportunity to do things differently now. In terms of housing, increasingly we do see ourselves working in partnership with, and led by, local communities.”
To this end, developers may find themselves in a tougher position than they were under Leese, who has been rigorously criticised for the speed of redevelopment in Manchester and the lack of affordable housing.
In recent weeks, Cllr Craig has been critical of the Government’s decision to rescind the £20-a-week universal credit uplift. The councillor wrote to secretary of state for work and pensions Therese Coffey urging her to reconsider the plan to remove the weekly uplift, pointing out that people on the lowest incomes would find themselves struggling even to buy essentials on the lower rate of Universal Credit if £80 per month was taken away from them.
She said: “We are urging the Government to think again about this cut to Universal Credit which couldn’t come at a worse time and will have a serious impact on so many Mancunians and take £60m a year out of the city’s economy. £20 a week doesn’t sound much but when you think that this adds up to £1,040 a year you get a better idea of the crucial difference it makes to people who are struggling to cope. It’s not something people are spending on luxuries – it's helping pay for essentials such as food and fuel, especially as gas and electricity prices rise. No one should be forced to choose between putting food on the table or heating their home."
Before becoming Deputy Leader, Cllr Craig was Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing. This experience will be invaluable as Manchester prepares to climb out of the pandemic and address ever-widening health inequalities and a backlog in hospitals. She has previously written: "In line with the Our Manchester approach we are focusing more on what matters to residents living in our diverse and vibrant communities, building on the strengths and assets that already exist... I not only want to see our residents live longer but also live more years free from illness or disability."
Health is an area where traditional silos in public provision can potentially be broken down. Cllr Craig has previously noted the importance of the voluntary sector in tackling health inequalities, writing: “We know that the Covid pandemic has exacerbated health and wealth inequalities in the city, and supporting our communities recover from the crisis is a priority for the city. Tackling inequalities has been a focus of our response in the pandemic working alongside communities and this additional health investment in the voluntary and community sector is one example of the holistic approach to improving wellbeing."
Congratulations to @bevcraig being elected new leader of Manchester City Council this evening. Massive job with lots to do but she’ll be great.
Commiserations to the brilliant @RahmanCllr @GarryBridges who will both be a huge part of the next chapter for @McrLabour https://t.co/AKlZvwpv04
— Lucy Powell MP (@LucyMPowell) October 5, 2021
Bev Craig said: "It is the honour of my life to be elected and offered this chance to lead Manchester."
"On a personal note, I want to thank Richard for everything he has done for Manchester; his legacy to the city is immense and it is certainly large shoes to fill. I hope he can be proud of the work he has achieved."
Sir Richard Leese said: "I am delighted with the new elected leader and she has my full support."
"It is a great honour to take on this role, and I am confident that Bev is committed to ensuring Manchester continues to be the best city in the world."
Cllr Marcus Johns tweeted:
"I am so delighted that my wonderful friend and supremely talented colleague Bev Craig was elected as the next Leader of Manchester City Council last night. Bev represents the Manchester I know & love, and I am excited to see where her leadership takes our city next."
Rob Nunney, Manchester's only Green councillor, said: "I offer my congratulations to Cllr Bev Craig, the newly elected leader of the council, and extend an invitation to work together in cross-party collaboration to improve the lives of residents in Woodhouse Park and the wider city."
"We urgently need to address the climate crisis and can no longer remain complacent over our poor air quality, lack of green space, and the urgent social housing problems facing our city. I hope this new leadership represents a change of direction for the council, and that Cllr Craig is willing to work with the Green Party to address these issues."
Here at Manchester Confidential, we wish Bev Craig the greatest success in her new role and that all her talent and hard work will bring the very best to this city.
Read next: Richard Leese resigns – the end of an era
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