Sir Richard Leese has announced that he will be standing down as the leader of Manchester City Council on December 1st, ahead of the local elections in May, bringing to an end his 25-year tenure.
In an interview with the Manchester Evening News on Tuesday, the Labour council leader sais he was stepping down to spend more time with his grandchildren and due to the intensity of the job.
“There are a number of reasons but the bottom line is I don’t want to do it anymore,” he said. “I don’t want to do 60-hour weeks and 12-hour days.”
In a short video message shared on social media, Leese thanked people who had worked with him throughout his time, adding: “It’s been an enormous privilege to serve this city over those 25 years.”
Leese said that now is strategically the right time to step away from the top job. “The agenda we’ve set out for the council now is a three to five year agenda and it really needs somebody else going to drive that over a period of time,” he said.
“There are a number of really good potential candidates to take my place and I think the strategic management of the council is in pretty good place at the moment.”
Labour figures have been paying tribute to the longstanding council leader. Labour MP for Manchester Central Lucy Powell tweeted that he was “the giant of local government and local leadership”.
“It’s hard to think of a politician on local or national stage who’s made more of a real-world impact than Richard Leese. Manchester is today a city transformed from the one of my youth and Greater Manchester is immeasurably stronger,” Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham tweeted.
“Driven by Labour values and commitment to his city, Sir Richard Leese has been a phenomenal council leader and a credit to Manchester. He’s shown what Labour in power can deliver. We’re all grateful to him for what he’s achieved and I wish him all the best for the future,” Keir Starmer said.
Leese is one of the longest-serving council leaders in the country. The former teacher and youth worker was first elected in 1984 and became leader of the local authority in May 1996, a month before the IRA detonated an explosive outside the Manchester Arndale shopping centre.
He was involved in the consequent transformation of the city, which had already been picked to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He was knighted in 2006, a year before Manchester International Festival was established to showcase new works by artists from across the world.
Leese was appointed deputy mayor of Greater Manchester by Andy Burnham in May 2017, a few weeks before the city was targeted by a suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert in Manchester Arena.