Sheffield cabinet for neighbourhoods and safety: ‘I got involved in politics to bang heads together’

“I got involved in politics to bang heads together,” said councillor Jim Steinke, cabinet member for community safety and neighbourhoods at Sheffield City Council. “It wasn’t any great, lofty idea.”

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 7:00 pm
The Star's knife crime debate at the Winter Gardens in Sheffield. Pictured are South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner - Dr Alan Billings, and Councillor Jim Steinke, Sheffield City Council. Picture: Chris Etchells

“I had always been interested in politics from quite a young age but what made me want to be an elected member was I got so frustrated with how the council didn’t communicate properly.

“Then when I became a politician I realised how much I enjoyed it.

Star cabinet debate 2018 at the Winter Garden in Sheffield. Councillor Jim Steinke cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“I was the second youngest at the time, and I felt that the chance to make a difference to people’s lives is a real privilege.”

Coun Steinke grew up in Richmond, London, and moved to Sheffield at 18 years old to study social studies at university.

“It was interesting because parts of Richmond are quite posh but where I grew up wasn’t posh,” he said.

“It was sometimes a big contrast and that sense of injustice.

Star cabinet debate 2018 at the Winter Garden in Sheffield. Councillor Jim Steinke cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety.

“The inequalities in our society are bad, unsustainable and not good for the country. So that was quite formative for me.”

Coun Steinke was first elected in 1983 in Nether Edge and Sharrow which he did for a number of years before taking a break to manage an old people’s home, work for Shelter and as chief executive of a refugee centre. 

But just over 18 months ago politics beckoned once more, and Coun Steinke was again elected representative for the same ward and soon joined the cabinet.

“I love being on the cabinet but it’s exhausting.

“I work ridiculously long hours but I’m not complaining about it.

“Although I have my portfolio, I’m interested in everything and sometimes do things beyond my brief as well.

“But I try and make it as much fun as possible, if you don’t enjoy something you aren’t going to be doing it well.

“There’s a councillor pub team who go to the Red Lion every Monday and we frequently win.”

Since May, Coun Steinke has worked on all things neighbourhoods and community safety. 

In particular, he has recently worked on plans to create more new and affordable homes, improve conditions in the private rented sector, increase awareness of how to sustainability help homeless people, the Gleadless Valley masterplan and working with police on their knife crime strategy. 

Coun Steinke lives in Sharrow and away from council work enjoys seeing opera and live music at least once a week and said he has a broad musical taste from Bob Dylan to Beethoven.

“I often see life through opera and think council meetings could sometimes go well as a musical.

“I’m pleased when I get to see live music more than once a week because I get to really switch off.”

Going forward, Coun Steinke said it is important Sheffield’s cabinet stay creative and flexible. 

He said: “We need to be imaginative and improvise.

“We need to prepare and plan but also recognise that things happen that we can't predict so we should be bold and flexible enough to respond to it.

“That to me is the art of politics, to plan ahead and make long-term decisions but also remain flexible enough so that when things change you are strong enough to change your mind.”