Sheffield cabinet for business and investment: ‘The city comes together and you can’t put a price on that’
Councillor Mazher Iqbal has been representing Darnall ward for 12 years and during that time, has also lead the city in four different cabinet posts, his most recent being business and investment.
Coun Iqbal’s office is filled with colourful drawings by his young daughter Shaffiya, who he said could be the ‘most photographed child’ in Sheffield and often comes to work with him.
He was born in Shropshire and moved to Sheffield about age four. He grew up in Firth Park with his parents and six siblings and said he was always keen to help others.
“I always wanted to be a police officer and give something back,” he said.
“I tried a few times and it didn’t work out, so I went back to college and did an O-level in law thinking that will improve my chance but it didn’t. So I was a bit disappointed.”
Instead, he worked in the public sector before joining the Labour Party and started attending meetings.
“I was buzzing, there were a lot of people at these meetings and interesting topics about helping folks. So I kept going, my friends said I was sad but the topics were close to my heart like poverty.”
He then ran in his local elections in Darnall and won before joining the cabinet. Since he was elected, Coun Iqbal has also been cabinet member for communities and inclusion, public health, transport and infrastructure.
In his most recent cabinet position, Coun Iqbal oversees projects such as Heart of the City 2, regenerating Castlegate and bringing businesses like McLaren Automotive and Boeing to the city as well as supporting local independent businesses.
“My proudest thing for me is that I’m a Labour councillor," he said.
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"If I wasn’t making a difference, I wouldn’t be here. Going into schools and talking about things like coding and visiting an independent business run by two old folks is brilliant and amazing. There’s so many things I enjoy about it but being on the cabinet to be able to make a difference is the key thing for me.
“Attracting big businesses is an important part of it but supporting small businesses is the lifeline of what we are trying to do. I know it’s been a difficult period on the high street, especially on Chapel Walk, but we need to continue working with them, and across the city, to find solutions.
“Also community development has always been at the heart of everything I do and if you can empower communities to support themselves, that’s what it’s all about. I strongly believe that community groups are embedded in their area and, like that Heineken advert, they reach the parts we can’t reach.”
Coun Iqbal lives with his wife and daughter in Darnall. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, going to the gym and volunteering on school trips with his daughter when he can. He is also a big movie fan, Marvel in particular, and Arsenal supporter.
“I walk home, I see my family, and everything just goes,” he said.
“It’s like on a Friday night my mates know not to come round for me because I’m putting my daughter to bed.
“We usually finish council work about 10pm so winding down can be difficult, so when I can I try to go to the gym and spend time with my family. It’s precious time but they are my world.”
Going forward, Coun Iqbal said the biggest challenges for the city will be Brexit and austerity but added that Sheffield has the steel to still succeed.
"The challenging things at the moment are Brexit and austerity, you just have to pick up a newspaper to see that. But they also provide an opportunity for what we're doing.
"The city comes together in difficult times and you can't put a price on that. It's a remarkable place and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, no other city compares."