LORD Peter Smith has stepped down as leader of Wigan Council after 27 years in the position.

The borough's Labour Party will vote for their new leader at their AGM on Monday and announce their choice at a full council meeting on May 23.

Lord Smith held many positions in the 1980s and 1990s including chair of the North West Regional Assembly and vice-president of the Local Government Association.

In 1999, he was given the title, Lord Smith of Leigh, in recognition of his work in local government.

Lord Smith said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as leader of the council and I’m proud to have made a difference to the borough and its people.

“Now is the time for the council to face up to new challenges with new thinking and I wish my successor well.

"I am particularly looking forward to spending more time with my supportive wife and family.

“I will continue with the important task of delivering a successful devolution of health and social care for Greater Manchester as well continuing to serve the people of Leigh West.”

Leaders across the region have praised the work he has done since he was appointed as leader in 1991.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Peter Smith is an exceptional local government leader. 

“In his period of office Wigan has been a consistently high performing council and through the Wigan Deal it has built a relationship with its citizens that is the envy of the local government world. 

“Beyond that, for almost two decades he was the glue that held Greater Manchester together and without his leadership we would not have achieved a devolution deal with more decisions now being taken locally than anywhere else in England.”

Lord Smith started his career in local government when he was elected as a Labour Party ward councillor for Leigh West in 1978.

He held the position of chairman of the finance committee for nine years before becoming leader of the council.

Sir Howard Bernstein, the former long-serving chief executive of Manchester City Council and the GMCA, said: “Peter has been one of the most inspirational leaders to be found anywhere in local government and has been a force for good in Wigan and Greater Manchester.

“I will always be grateful to him for the support he has given me over many years.”

Lord Smith will continue in his position as a ward councillor for Leigh West and as a lead member for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

Donna Hall, chief executive of Wigan Council, said: “Peter Smith has been an incredible leader for Wigan Borough.

"He is decisive, intelligent and always prepared to be courageous with a fierce dedication to improving the lives of our residents and we will miss him hugely.

“His determination to protect those on low incomes saw him commit to freezing council tax despite government funding to councils being drastically reduced.

“Our transformation from a traditional council to one which works with residents and communities through The Deal to make the borough a better place could not have been achieved without his political vision, hard work and passion.”