Manchester

Lord Peter Smith: Wigan Council leader steps down after 27 years

Lord Peter Smith
Image caption Lord Peter Smith said it was "now time to pass the baton" to a new leader

The leader of Wigan Council is to step down after 27 years in the post.

Lord Peter Smith - the longest serving council leader in Greater Manchester - said it was "now time to pass the baton" to a new leader.

He will continue as a councillor and chairman of the Greater Manchester group responsible for the region's devolved healthcare.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham described him as "a great friend and mentor" and "outstanding leader".

The new leader will be chosen by the Labour group on 14 May.

Lord Smith started his career in local government when he was elected as a Labour Party ward councillor for Leigh West in 1978.

He gained his political reputation in the area of council finance, moving from chairman of the finance committee for nine years to council leader.

'Exceptional leader'

This led to appointments throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including chair of the North West Regional Assembly and vice-president of the Local Government Association.

In 1999, he was made Lord Smith of Leigh in recognition of his work in local government.

He is chairman of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership Board and has led on health devolution.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said Lord Smith "is an exceptional local government leader".

"In his period of office, Wigan has been a consistently high-performing council and beyond that, for almost two decades he was the glue that held Greater Manchester together."

Lord Smith said: "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."

More on this story