Sir Howard Bernstein to retire, ending a transformative era


Described as one of the 'great local government chief executives', Manchester City Council's Sir Howard Bernstein has announced he will step down in spring 2017.

Among a string of major legacy achievements in infrastructure and transport, Sir Howard played a leading role in regenerating the city after the 1996 IRA bombing; helped orchestrate the introduction and expansion of the Metrolink tram network and was involved in the establishment of Manchester Airport as a plc in the mid 1980s. 

Sir Howard Bernstein

As well as these physical achievements, Sir Howard was also a key figure in the development of current local government political culture with the establishment of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in 2011.

This anticipated not only the string of combined authority deals currently going through statutory processes, but also the modern landscape of greater collaboration between councils to provide wider and more efficient delivery frameworks and processes. 

Among the benefits of such an approach was the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and Highways England - one of the first in the country.

He also helped develop Manchester into the leading city outside London when it came to devolution, with a series of historic agreements with central government.

Manchester has taken more local control of infrastructure funding and is now in line for bus franchising powers.

Sir Howard, who joined the council as a junior clerk in 1971, was knighted in 2003 for his services to the city.

He 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.

'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.'

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, 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.'

A special meeting of the council’s Personnel Committee will be convened shortly to begin the process of recruiting the next chief executive.

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