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Sir Howard Bernstein announces retirement after 45-year career

Manchester City Council’s chief executive, who spearheaded the city’s devolution programme, will retire next spring, ending one of the longest-running careers in local government.

Sir Howard Bernstein has been Manchester City Council chief executive since 1998 after joining it as a clerk at the age of 18 in 1971.

Some of his achievements include securing the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2002, the founding of Greater Manchester Combined Authority in 2011, and the devolution of health powers to the city this year.

Sir Howard, who was knighted in 2003 for his services to the city, said: “It has been a privilege to serve the city during such a pivotal period, working with many excellent people both within the council and in public and private partner organisations. I’m incredibly proud of what the city has been able to achieve in this time and to have played a part in it.

“Manchester is firmly established as a confident and dynamic place, recognised as a premier league world city although of course there are still significant challenges to address to ensure everyone who live here has the opportunity to share in, and contribute to, its growing success.

“We have a clear, shared vision for the future direction of the city – set out in the Our Manchester Strategy which takes the city up to 2025 – and a strong platform from which to move forwards. But by definition this is a long-term strategy.

“I will have been at the council 46 years next year and this feels like the right time to plan for my succession. There is still considerable work to do in the months ahead and my focus on it will not be diminished.”

Sir Howard also served as chief executive of Manchester Millenium Ltd, which oversaw the city’s regeneration after the 1996 IRA bombing.

As clerk to the Transport for Greater Manchester committee, he oversaw the expansion of the city’s tram network and helped establish Manchester Airport as a plc in the 1980s.

A special meeting of the council’s Personnel Committee will be convened shortly to begin finding his replacement.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and Sir Howard’s long-term partner in the city’s regeneration, said: “Sir Howard is widely recognised as one of the great local government chief executives. Having someone of his talent, vision and drive dedicate his career to the city has been an undoubted plus for Manchester. Working with him over many years, addressing challenges and attempting to capture opportunities for the city, has been a pleasure.

“He will be a hard act to follow but part of his legacy will be the quality of the team, the strength of relationships and the depth of organisational ambition his successor inherits.

“Our new chief executive will need to be someone with the strategic vision, innovative ideas, partnership working skills and gravitas to help lead Manchester forwards into an exciting new phase.”

(Image c. Danny Lawson from PA Wire and Press Association Images)

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