Sir Howard Bernstein to retire from Manchester City Council

Manchester City Council has announced that chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein will retire from his role with the organisation in Spring 2017.

Bernstein has played a central role in the regeneration and economic growth of the city, including serving from 1996-99 as the chief executive of Manchester Millennium Ltd which oversaw the transformation of the city centre in the aftermath of the 1996 IRA bombing. Since then the city has experienced unprecedented growth and investment including flagship developments such as Spinningfields, NOMA, First Street, Corridor Manchester and forthcoming investments in St John’s, Airport City, the Northern Gateway and HS2.

He was also instrumental in securing Manchester’s hosting of the 2002 Commonwealth Games – then the largest multi-sports event ever hosted in the UK – and the catalyst to the regeneration of East Manchester and the unparalleled investment in sport and leisure facilities focused around the Etihad Campus. 

As clerk to Transport for Greater Manchester Committee -and its predecessor bodies - he has played a leading role in the introduction and expansion of the Metrolink tram network. He was also involved in the establishment of Manchester Airport as a plc in the mid 1980s and the group’s ongoing expansion.

Bernstein has been a key player in developing collaborative working relationships between the ten Greater Manchester local authorities. He oversaw the establishment of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in 2011 and the development of the Northern Powerhouse initiative and a series of historic devolution agreements - transferring significant powers and resources from central government to the city region and giving local leaders more scope to shape the economic success of the region and reform public services to better address Greater Manchester’s needs and priorities. 

Building on these groundbreaking agreements, he also led on the development of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Greater Manchester local authorities, NHS England and the Greater Manchester Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) which secured the devolution of all health and social care funding to Greater Manchester. The agreement puts in place new partnership arrangements which will help make services more financially viable while improving outcomes for residents. 

Bernstein, who joined the council as a junior clerk in 1971, has been in the top job since 1998. 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. 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 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.

“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.”

With Greater Manchester due to have an elected mayor in May next year, the city looks set to enter a new era. 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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