“I couldn’t be a priest so I became a councillor,” said coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development at Sheffield City Council. “I always wanted to live a life of service and politics is a powerful way you can make the world a better place.”
Coun Scott has boundless energy. In a cafe in the Millennium Gallery he chats enthusiastically about climate change, trams, equality, family, the Peak District and how Sheffield is ‘the greatest city in the world’.
He leads on a wide range of issues in transport and development including creating more affordable homes, HS2, fracking, ensuring our rivers are ready to face climate change in 100 summer’s time and, most recently, plans for a controversial pollution charge.
Coun Scott’s drive to become a politician came partly from experiencing inequality at a young age.
He said: “We grew up in a council house in Northamptonshire. There was never any money and my mum got income support, which doesn’t exist anymore but that was all we had.
“I was the only child in my year to get a scholarship to our local private school which was very posh and tens of thousands of pounds. There was no way we could have ever afforded it but I was quite smart.
“The impact inequality has on people and how unfair things can be always really struck me. There were big Jaguars and Range Rovers coming up the drive to the quad and then us in our 20-year-old Volvo, and kids would say things. So I became quite competitive and driven.
“I would see people not working any harder than my mum was, in some cases working a lot less, and yet had a whole range of opportunities and breaks that we never had as a family.”
He joined the Labour Party at 16 and was ‘so radical, it made Jeremy Corbyn look quite moderate’.
After leaving school, he studied politics at the University of Sheffield at which point he started to ‘seriously consider’ becoming a Catholic priest. But after falling in love with his now wife, coun Scott re-evaluated and decided to run in his local elections in Arbourthorne.
He said: “It never occurred to me to go and earn a load of money in the private sector, in my professional life I’ve worked for a load of different charities as well. That’s always been what’s motivated me.
“I came to Sheffield in 2004, and on about my third day I decided I was going to live the rest of my life here. I think it’s amazing, the blend of things in Sheffield makes it so special and unique.”
Coun Scott is a ‘well shuffled card’, having taken on cabinet roles for environment, recycling and streetscene, community services, transport and sustainability, and now development and transport in the space of six years.
“It’s great, because I’ve got to learn lots of different things about everything,” he said. “I really believe that when you look around this city you can see the impact the council has made for good.
“The libraries, museums, parks, outdoor spaces, schools and roads are there because they were delivered by a Labour council who got why they were important. That’s what I hold onto as my guiding star. My mission in life is to make Sheffield the best it can be and there is nothing I would rather be doing.”
With his most recent portfolio, coun Scott’s five key focuses are: new homes, transport, development, climate change and air quality.
He recently worked on plans to distribute contested development money, from the Community Infrastructure Levy, to the most deprived areas of the city, which angered some opposition councillors.
Coun Scott is also passionate about tackling climate change and at a recent Star Cabinet event described it as the “biggest threat we have ever faced as a species” and branded it “as big a threat in the twenty-first century as war was in the twentieth.”
To tackle this, coun Scott has taken bold actions to reduce carbon including plans for a pollution charge in the city centre of up to £50 a day on buses, taxis, vans and lorries and a new fleet of green buses.
He said: “Increasingly, people are seeing the impact of climate change, we had one of the hottest summers ever, and there is going to be more intense and frequent weather patterns.
“In Sheffield the biggest impact we’ll have is flooding, so we are working on plans to make sure our rivers are ready, not just for next summer but, for 100 summer’s time. It’s quite exciting to be thinking about, some of these things probably won’t be built until I’m in the ground.”
Coun Scott lives in the North West of the city with his two young daughters, Abigail and Lucy, and wife, Jenny.
The little time he has away from council duties, is spent with his family or running or cycling in the Peak District.
“Sheffield is the best place in the country to raise a family, there are always things going on for children.
“Council work is relentless, it’s a marathon rather than a sprint but you have to have the energy to be able to function in that way.
“The ability to decompress, unwind and just breathe is really important. Especially being on cabinet and having two young children. There are times when it’s really stressful and difficult but you just have to remember you have family and friends who will support you.”
Going forward, coun Scott aims to keep improving and promoting the city.
He said: “We need to shout more about Sheffield as a city and punch above our weight. The number of people who come to the city and stay, I sometimes think it’s a bit of a hidden gem. It has got a really great balance between being enterprising and dynamic and caring for everyone, which is like an elixir. We are a city that has huge potential and is really going places.”