PRESIDENT'S AWARD

This special Award is presented for an outstanding contribution to the property industry. This might be a project, company or individual, or perhaps a combination of all three.


 

NAT15-Sir-Howard-BernsteinSIR HOWARD BERNSTEIN

When the Prime minister extolled the virtues of 'The Northern Powerhouse' to the Singaporean Government earlier this year, he would have done so secure in the knowledge that at the 'unofficial helm' of this 'unofficial region' was a real public official who has demonstrated, possibly more than any other individual, how to bring about regional economic success. For under Sir Howard Bernstein's stewardship, Manchester has established itself as not just a regional capital, but a European force to rival the likes of Frankfurt, Barcelona and Milan. Since the former FT's FDi European Personality of the Year took over as Chief Executive of Manchester City Council in 1998, he has stewarded in Bridgewater Hall; the Manchester Velodrome; the Manchester Arena; the City of Manchester Stadium; Urbis; Piccadilly Gardens; Exchange Square and New Cathedral Street to name but a few. Even more remarkable is that the former Town Hall clerk helped them come in generally on time and on budget. Much of this investment could not or would not have emerged had it not been for the efficiency of the Manchester Metrolink system and the expansion of the airport, both of which were championed by the former Mancunian of the Year.

Sir Howard has often cited his early success in prising funding from the early 1990's Tory leaders for that revolutionary light rail system, as one of the highlights of his career: The devoted Manchester City fan said: “A so-called hard left council successfully negotiated with a Conservative government a funding package; this showed more than anything our capacity to put place before party politics.” This ability to put the City before anything else is at the root of Manchester's success. Bernstein went on to say: “This is why we have one of the most formidable partnerships with business to be found anywhere.” And this is true; this is why the Bank of New York chose Manchester, why so many regional and national developers have delivered so many great schemes in the city and why the council was the first local authority to be selected by RIBA as its prestigious “Client of the Year” in 2003. At the time the judges said: “Manchester City Council has been an exemplary client and enabler of good architecture.

As a result of what its chief executive Howard Bernstein has described as 'positive discrimination in favour of quality outcomes.” Without Sir Howard's willingness to work alongside the private sector and an uncanny ability to sniff out what will do well, it is unlikely that Manchester could have recovered so strongly from the devastation and tragedy wrought by the 1996 IRA bomb. Following the terrorist attack Bernstein was appointed Chief Executive of Manchester Millennium Limited, the public/private sector Task Force set up by the Government and the City Council to oversee the redesign and rebuilding of the city centre. His astute handling of this sensitive and vital role saw Manchester hosting the Commonwealth Games just six years later.

A job that the city performed with much aplomb and diplomacy. Bernstein's key contribution was recognised when he became a Sir in the following New Year’s Honours. There is an underlying factor in all of this striving for investment and creation of wealth; it is to better the lot of each and every Mancunian. In what has been referred to as enlightened socialism, Sir Howard and his colleagues, especially council leader and fellow Knight, Sir Richard Leese, have taken the stance that the fundamental requirements of access to decent housing, health and education should be met by economic activity.

As Bernstein said: “The single biggest influence in transforming the lives of residents and to improve the productivity of our workforce is tackling levels of worklessness.” To achieve this Manchester has strived constantly to improve the economic competitiveness of the area. Whilst Sir Howard would be the first to admit that Manchester - the city that hosted so wonderfully the BCO 2012 conference, that has spurred so many great developments and has stimulated and inspired regional growth throughout the UK - should be being honoured. This year though the BCO would like to recognise the individual that has driven, encouraged, negotiated and fought for that success. Congratulations to Sir Howard Bernstein, worthy recipient of the BCO President's Award 2015.