FORMER Leigh MP Andy Burnham has compared Lord Peter Smith's achievements in local politics to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's success in football.

Lord Smith announced his decision to step down from his role as leader of Wigan Council yesterday, Thursday, after 27 years in the position.

In a statement, he explained that "now is the time for the council to face up to new challenges with new thinking".

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham worked closely with Lord Smith during his 16 years as Leigh MP.

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.

"To use a football analogy, he is the Sir Alex Ferguson of English local government.

“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.

“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.”

MP for Leigh Jo Platt has also reserved praise for Lord Smith.

She 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.”

Lord Smith will continue his role as a ward councillor for Leigh West which he has held for 40 years ans was re-elected last week.

He will also remain in his position as lead member for the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

His successor will be voted for at the Labour Party's AGMg on Monday and will confirmed at the full council meeting on Wednesday May 23.