Surprise news from the Town Hall: what next for the leadership of the city?

This was a bolt from the blue. The person we have known as THE LEADER has stepped down tonight in short order. Nobody, in the know, seems to have been in the know. He will leave on the 1 December. Certainly nothing in our recent interview indicated this was about to happen. 

His decisiveness, which created enemies, has been a vehicle for movement in the way the city has developed

This is the official message. 

Statement from Councillor Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council: 

“I have tonight informed Manchester City Council’s Labour Group of my intention, after 25 years, to step down as Leader of the Council on December 1 this year. 

“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.” 

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Greater Manchester's politics is changing with Sir Richard Leese stepping down

Meanwhile Joanne Roney, the city Chief Executive, has said:

“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.” 

Joanne Roney Manchester City Council Chief Executive
Joanne Roney, Manchester City Council Chief Executive

The big question is who will replace Sir Richard Leese? At Confidentials we simply have no idea. 

In his interview in August he said to us:   

“(After 25 years) there is a risk of becoming moribund and stuck in your ways, but it has been a perpetual change here and that has been to do with the personalities involved alongside me. We can’t do a succession plan because at some point I’ll either go voluntarily or I’ll be taken out, I know which I’d prefer,” he says. “Whichever way I go the Labour Group will elect someone else, there’s no prior anointing. What is clear is when there is a new leader, the leadership of the city will be different.

This city will be different. Roney is right, Leese has been towering. His contribution to Manchester and its profile, not just locally or regionally or nationally but internationally has been profound. His plain speaking, sharp intellect, his capacity to filter information and reach a conclusion has been a million miles from most local authority leadership. Above all his decisiveness, which created enemies has been a vehicle for movement in the way the city has developed physically and socially. 

Whether people love or loathe him Sir Richard Leese has been the colossus of British local government. What comes after 1 December 2021 is going to very interesting. 

Read again: The Big Interview: Sir Richard Leese, 25 years at the top

Read again: Sir Richard Leese calls for ‘rapidly-deployable enforcement measures’

Read again: Sir Richard Leese: 'MCR Is Full - We Need 4,000 New Homes A Year'

Read again: Sir Richard Leese Interviewed: How MCR Is Governed

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