Burnham: Lord Smith is the Sir Alex of local politics
Lord Smith announced yesterday he was standing down as leader of Wigan Council after 27 years at the helm.
During his near three-decade long spell in the top office, Lord Smith has gained a reputation as one of the most influential leaders in the UK.
Mr Burnham, former Leigh MP, also described Lord Smith as a “friend and mentor”.
He said: “For the last 20 years, Peter and I have lived the ups and downs of politics together, both at a local and national level.
“He has been a great friend and mentor to me but, more importantly, an outstanding leader of our area.
“He has devoted his professional life to the betterment of our borough and no-one will ever match his record of dedicated service to its people.
“Back in the early 90s, Peter inherited a borough brought to its knees by the decade before. Ever since, and without any real Government help, Peter has painstakingly worked to restore its fortunes.
“The Wigan Borough of 2018 is a very different place to the Wigan Borough of 1991 and that turn-around is down to Peter more than anyone else.
“Despite the funding challenges it has faced, Wigan has consistently been a high-performing council under Peter’s leadership. To use a football analogy, he is the Sir Alex Ferguson of English local government.
“Peter has been one of the main architects of devolution to Greater Manchester and I know he will continue to make a major contribution to public life here.”
Other senior figures in local politics have also paid tribute to Lord Smith.
Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, said: “What Wigan and Leigh have been able to achieve and defend over recent decades is because there were people who believed in this borough and were prepared to fight for it. Thank you Lord Peter Smith for all you’ve done.”
Yvonne Fovargue, MP for Makerfield, said: “Thank you Lord Peter Smith for your public service and leadership of Wigan Council.
“Glad to see that you will still play a role on health and social care in GM and continue to serve your constituents at ward level.”
Jo Platt, MP for Leigh, said: “Lord Smith has steered the council, through good and bad.
“Peter has been supportive and an inspirational leader and look forward to continuing to work with him in his role as councillor.”
Leigh Miners Rangers Rugby League club which Lord Smith has been a long term supporter of said: “Best of luck and thank you to Lord Peter Smith from all at the club. You have always been solid support for the club from juniors, seniors and more recently the girls and women’s sides.”
Lord Smith will continue as a ward councillor for Leigh West, a position he has held for 40 years and was re-elected to in May’s local elections, as well continue in his capacity as lead member for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.
Wigan Council’s Labour Party group will decide their next leader in a meeting on Monday (May 14).