Richard Leese was born and brought up in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. After graduating from the University of Warwick, he 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. He was employed variously in youth work, community work, and education research between 1979 and 1988, and was elected to Manchester City Council in 1984. He became Leader of the Council in 1996, having previously served as Deputy Leader (1990 – 1996), Chair of the Education Committee (1986 - 1990) and Chair of the Finance Committee (1990 - 1995).
Richard’s political interests include devolution, place-based budgets and 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. He has a number of additional responsibilities including Director of Manchester Airport Holdings Ltd, Vice Chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Chair of the Association of Rail North Partner Authorities and Chair of the LGA City Regions Board.
His interests outside politics include walking, cinema, music, and sport (as a spectator, principally Manchester City football and cricket). He is a regular runner and cycles to the Town Hall most days.