Tributes paid to Lord Peter Smith of Leigh

Lord Peter Smith
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The man credited for his part in winning devolution for the Greater Manchester region in 2014 has passed away.

Lord Peter Smith of Leigh, has died, aged 76.

Lord Smith was a ward councillor for Leigh West for 40 years and held the role of leader of Wigan Council for 27 years before stepping down from that role in 2018.

Among the many tributes paid last night was one from the current leader of Wigan Council, Cllr David Molyneux, who said: “Peter’s commitment and determination to improve Wigan Borough has driven forward the transformation of our borough.

“But Peter was not just a remarkable leader and councillor, he was also a husband, a dad and a very good friend of mine for over 40 years.

“His death will leave a very big hole in people’s hearts, including mine. It was an honour to serve alongside him as his deputy and I will miss his wisdom and friendship.

“He achieved so many great things for Wigan Borough and will leave a lasting legacy.”

Sir Richard Leese, leader of the Manchester City Council, said: “I’m very sad to hear of the death of an old friend and comrade, Lord Peter Smith. Wigan has lost a true champion today.

“Peter was at the heart of his community and a key figure in Greater Manchester politics, greatly admired by those that knew him well.

“He was a passionate believer in devolution and the need to reform public services to help those who needed it most. His role in GM is often underestimated, but devolution wouldn’t have happened without him.”

Lord Smith, who started his career in local government when he was elected as a Labour Party Ward councillor for Leigh West in 1978, gained his political reputation in the area of council finance, moving from chairman of the finance committee for nine years into council leader.

His success as council leader led to many regional and national 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.

As a big sports fan and supporter of Leigh Centurions rugby league club Lord Smith was determined to boost the health of local people and provide the very best sports facilities in the borough.

This led to the development of Leigh Sports Village, now the home of Leigh Centurions, which was officially opened by the Queen in May 2009.

Other high profile projects achieved in his tenure include the building of the DW Stadium, the home of Wigan Athletic and Wigan Warriors, Robin Park and The Grand Arcade shopping centre.

He was chairman of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership Board and led on bringing health and social care services across the city region closer together to improve health and ensure the vulnerable and elderly get the best care.

A former board member and chairman of Manchester Airport his retention of airport shares for Wigan Council resulted in millions of pounds of annual dividends to support investment in communities.

His leadership also saw Wigan Council cope with some of the worst budget council cuts in its history in 2010, yet through Lord Smith taking a different approach the council improved services and increased resident satisfaction.

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