At the beginning of June, The Star published a story highlighting an alleged ‘repeated succession of inappropriate behaviour’ by Coun Iqbal while he was serving as cabinet member for business and investment.
The allegations, which covered actions of Coun Iqbal between 2017 and 2020, accused him of ‘openly associating with and supporting the interests of certain private commercial parties’; organising meetings with developers without planning officers present, which is explicitly prohibited; and wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayer money by commissioning planning consultations only to cancel them at the last minute.
Following the allegations and for the duration of the ongoing investigation, Coun Iqbal, who ‘robustly denies’ any wrongdoing, has been ‘temporarily stepped aside’ from his duties as a member of the executive committee which replaced the cabinet at the elections in May this year.
Council leader Terry Fox and deputy Julie Grocutt assumed responsibility for Coun Iqbal’s executive committee remit of city futures, development, culture and regeneration, to which he was appointed in May. According to a Labour group press release issued announcing Coun Iqbal’s suspension in June, Couns Fox and Grocutt are sharing Coun Iqbal’s executive duties related to this role while the misconduct investigation is ongoing.
However, Sheffield Council confirmed to The Star that, since his suspension on June 2, Coun Iqbal has still been in receipt of a monthly £817.32 ‘special responsibility allowance’ as remuneration for the executive position from which he has been stepped aside.
This payment is made on top of the annual basic allowance of £12,678 Coun Iqbal receives for his work as councillor for Darnall ward.
The fact Coun Iqbal still receives the bonus has drawn criticism from those who initially blew the whistle on his alleged wrongdoing.
Simon Ogden is the former head of regeneration who served Sheffield City Council for 36 years, whose initial complaint about Mazher Iqbal’s conduct in office prompted the misconduct investigation.
He said: “[Coun Iqbal] is either being paid to do nothing or he is in fact carrying on in the position but not in public. Either of which is not right.”
Another source from within the council, who contributed to the original story highlighting Coun Iqbal’s alleged misconduct said: “It is disappointing that despite being stood down as cabinet member, Councillor Iqbal has continued to receive a cabinet member’s allowance. This will surely not look right to people who expect our elected representatives to be above board.”
Sheffield Council defended the payments of the bonus allowance to Coun Iqbal while he has been ‘stepped aside’.
A council spokesperson said: “Councillor Iqbal remains an Executive Member of the council, but he has temporarily stepped aside from his duties to allow the proper conduct of an investigation.
“Executive members of the council are paid a monthly Special Responsibility Allowance, which Councillor Iqbal continues to receive while the allegations against him are investigated.”
The investigation into the allegations made against Coun Iqbal began in October 2020, following Mr Ogden’s initial complaint.
It remains ongoing, and no time scale for its conclusion has been given by SCC.