Listening to Local Leadership in Manchester: Sir Richard Leese

October 20th, 2011

As part of Good Ideas from Successful Cities: Municipal Leadership on Immigrant Integration, we are asking mayors and city leaders for their views on immigration, local initiatives and ideas that inspire from cities around the world.

Sir Richard Leese
Leader of the Council
Manchester City Council

Why is immigration important to your city?

Manchester has a style that is creative, innovative, vibrant and ambitious. The City developed through the energy and enterprise of migrants. Manchester was the first industrial city and grew in the 18th and 19th centuries through waves of migration.

Today, Manchester continues to welcome people from all over the world because of the contribution they can make and the opportunities we can offer. We continue to be dynamic and creative because of our diversity. This is key to our economic success.

What is Manchester’s most successful immigrant integration initiative or programme to date?

Given our history, integration has been a continuous process since the industrial revolution.

One of our more recent examples, which may be of interest to other cities, was work between 2003 and 2006 to integrate Somali communities. This involved work across a highly complex range of Somali communities based on clans and an existing, mainly Afro-Caribbean, community. The work involved in co-ordinating action across a wide range of public services to support the existing community and the newly arrived Somali community. Key parts of the programme were integration through education, training, skills and, ultimately, employment; action in relation to crime and social behaviour and reducing barriers such as language.

What is next on the agenda for immigrant integration?

Manchester’s economic base is now highly diversified requiring a level of skills, for example, in knowledge based industries such as life sciences, creative, cultural and media and specialist manufacturing. One of key priorities going forward is, therefore, to increase the speed in which migrants can develop high level skills.

What practice or programme would you like to bring to Manchester next (and inspired by what city)?

Identity plays an important part in the life of Mancunians. We are aware that Rotterdam has developed an Urban Citizenship and Identity initiative, which explores whether the concept of integration is in the past and ‘contribution’ being the future. Manchester would like to learn more about this initiative to identify good practice that it can embed into local campaigns such as I Love MCR.

Note: The I Love Manchester campaign was a response to the city riots that occurred earlier in the month. August 26 was the official I Love MCR day.

Sir Richard Leese was born, brought up and went to school in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. After graduating from the University of Warwick, worked as a teacher in Coventry and as an exchange teacher in the USA before moving to Manchester to take up a post as a youth worker. Employed variously in youth work, community work, and education research 1979-1988. Elected to the City Council in 1984. Deputy Leader from 1990 to 1996 having previously Chaired the Education Committee (1986-90) and Finance Committee (1990-95).

Political interests include the links between economic development and social policy, developing open democracy and the community leadership role of local authorities; and the role of cities in creating a sustainable future.

Heavily involved in regeneration activity including being on the board of the Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company. Chair of Manchester Airport Group Shareholders Committee. Deputy Leader of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) and became Chair of the Regional Leaders’ Board (RLB) in March 2009.

Interests outside politics include cinema, music, and sport as a spectator (principally football and cricket), a regular runner and cycling to the Town Hall most days.

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