Greater Manchester’s longest-serving council leader, Lord Peter Smith, has stepped down from his post as leader of Wigan Council.
Lord Smith, 72, has been a part of Wigan Council for 40 years and was elected leader in 1991, but the Labour councillor has now stepped aside after 27 years in order to spend more time with his family.
Talking about his shock resignation, Lord Smith – who will continue as a councillor – said he was ‘proud’ of the contributions he’d made to the local area.
He explained: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as leader of the council and I’m proud to have made a difference to the borough and its people.
“It is now time to pass the baton on and I wish my successor well.
“I will continue with the important task of delivering a successful devolution of health and social care for Greater Manchester as well as continuing to serve the people of Leigh West.”
During his illustrious career, Lord Smith has excelled in his role as a councillor, and in 1999 his services to the council were recognised by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who ennobled him in honour of his outstanding work for the local government.
Since then he has stepped up into more senior roles, having served as Chairman of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority since 2011 – a role he will continue along with being ward councillor of Leigh West.
It remains unclear who will fill the void of Lord Smith, but his long-term deputy, David Molyneux, is currently favourite to replace him.
Whoever steps into the role, though, has a lot to live up to. Smith has long a reputation as one of the leading councillors in the North West and his work was lauded by Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council.
“Peter Smith is an exceptional local government leader,” said Sir Richard.
“In his period of office Wigan has been a consistently high performing council and through the Wigan Deal it has built a relationship with its citizens that are the envy of the local government world.
“Beyond that, for almost two decades he was the glue that held Greater Manchester together and without his leadership we would not have achieved a devolution deal with more decisions now being taken locally than anywhere else in England.”
*Image courtesy of GMHSC Partnership via YouTube, with thanks.