Meet Sheffield Council’s revamped cabinet
New faces have taken on leadership roles at Sheffield Council and the authority has some fresh priorities following last week’s local elections.
The ruling Labour group lost five seats and gained one when voters headed to the polls. They still have a majority, holding 49 of the council chamber’s 84 seats – but the party said “serious reflection” was needed after the election results.
Council leader Julie Dore subsequently announced a shake-up of her cabinet. Four councillors will be given their own portfolios, and existing cabinet members will take on some new responsibilities.
Coun Dore said: “There’s a good mix of experienced councillors, and councillors that have only been on a few years but have a lot to bring to it with their own experiences, knowledge and passions.
“Like with anything you need to see continuity but you also need opportunity. We have a group of around 50 members and we need to make sure there are opportunities there so they can progress through.”
Meet Sheffield’s revamped cabinet committee
Finance, resources and governance – Olivia Blake (deputy leader)
Coun Blake has served as a representative for five years and has been deputy leader since 2017.
This year her portfolio includes ‘governance’ for the first time. With this she will look at the way councillors roles have changed over time as a result of austerity and review local area partnerships as well as the government relationships.
She added: “It’s a really challenging time for the council – we’ve lost half our budget and it really is hitting people hard.
“I don’t think people out there realise how bad things are. It’s about making sure we have a prudent approach over the next four years because that is a critical period for the council that will either see us collapse in on ourselves or keep afloat depending on what happens so it’s really critical that we get that right and ensure we can continue to provide good, quality services.”
Environment, streetscene and climate change – Lewis Dagnall
Coun Dagnall is a well-known face at the council, having last year become the third councillor to take the lead on issues relating to the controversial Streets Ahead contract. Part of his focus now includes climate change, which has been added this year. He will also oversee new plans which could see even more street trees being added to the city.
He said: “Climate change is obviously the biggest but it is just one of many ecological disasters we are facing. Another is biodiversity, part of tackling that is looking at street trees so we are soon to announce a development of our street tree strategy which we will work on with STAG.
“We’ve always said we are committed to our street tree stock in Sheffield but we had different views of how to manage that but as we settle those differences this is a really good opportunity to develop our views and take on that expertise.”
Health and social care – George Lindars-Hammond
Coun Lindars-Hammond has been a councillor since 2012 and was previously a cabinet adviser for his new portfolio. He is taking over from Chris Peace, who is stepping down to focus on his ambition to become MP for North East Derbyshire.
He said: “The biggest overall challenge is also the biggest financial challenge for this council – the cost of social care.
“If we don’t do something it will collapse the whole system and not just social care, the whole council, so it’s an absolute mountainous challenge and we’ve got to be up for fixing that.”
Children and families – Jackie Drayton
Coun Drayton has been a councillor for more than 20 years. One of her biggest challenges is providing support to the rising number of children in care.
She said: “I think everyone knows austerity has had a huge toll on families and we see more children coming into care so we are going to continue working with families to bring them back into their homes but also continuing to campaign for more foster carers.
“It’s about working together as a team – all our portfolios overlap a lot so we will work together as a cabinet. We have this vision for the city so it’s about our city being great but also our people being resilient.”
Culture, parks and leisure – Mary Lea
Coun Lea, who represents the Darnall ward, was elected as a councillor in 2003 has held her cabinet portfolio for two years.
She said: “It’s a really positive, exciting portfolio and there’s lots going like the snooker and Sheffield United getting into the Premiership and the Invictus Games this year. But there’s also lots to do in our parks and it plays a big part in health and wellbeing.
“There’s a lot more pressure in people’s lives because of austerity so we have to ensure they have something enjoyable in their lives to look forward to and that it’s affordable.”
Education and skills – Abtisam Mohamed
Coun Mohamed was elected three years ago and has previously been a cabinet assistant for business and finance.
She said: “It’s been a nice but challenging experience so far but nonetheless I’ve enjoyed it. I’m hoping that being a cabinet member will be as equally exciting and challenging.
“The inclusion strategy is something I’m keen to get working on. Exclusions has always been something I’ve been passionate about reducing so it’s one of the key agendas I’ll be looking at.”
Neighbourhoods and community safety – Paul Wood
Coun Wood has been a councillor since 2014 and takes the cabinet seat vacated by Jim Steinke.
He will focus on reviewing the repairs service, providing more support for tenants and landlords and a new approach to tackling knife crime which ties in with health.
Business and investment – Mazher Iqbal
Coun Iqbal has been a councillor for 13 years and during that time has taken on a number of different cabinet positions. He will continue with business and investment – on his agenda is the regeneration of Castlegate, Heart of the City II, the Olympic Legacy Park and supporting local businesses, as well as bringing in big investments.
Coun Dore said: “We are very ambitious for the city and we are placed ideally to encourage inward investment, we know there is a lot of interest in Sheffield at the moment but we need to make sure we get the right investment.”
Transport and development – Bob Johnson
Coun Johnson has been a councillor for eight years and during that time has served as a cabinet adviser and has been chair of the environment and economic scrutiny committee.
He said: “I’m most looking forward to climate change and air quality, it’s a big issue for the city and it will take the work of all our colleagues to make sure we get it right.”
Coun Dore added: “If you are a woman born in Burngreave you have a life expectancy of 52 today and if you are a woman born in Fulwood today you will have a life expectancy of 72. It’s not necessarily about the house you live in but the opportunities that are available to you. There shouldn’t be such major differences. The best policy to do that is housing.”