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"No evidence" Sheffield councillor broke rules, despite committee concerns

Council sub-committee says it is "deeply concerned about the seeming acceptability of the day-to-day behaviours of senior officers and Members illustrated by the complaint" against Cllr Iqbal – but finds that he did not breach its code of conduct.

Mazher

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Executive Member for City Futures, Development, Culture and Regeneration.

A Council investigation has found that there is "no evidence" that a Sheffield councillor broke its members' code of conduct, following a serious complaint filed by a former Council officer last year.

Cllr Mazher Iqbal, Executive Member for City Futures, Development, Culture and Regeneration, “robustly denied” allegations by Simon Ogden of “openly associating with and supporting the interests of” private commercial parties, including property developers, as well as wasting public money by delaying or cancelling planning work and public consultations, and meeting developers without Council officers present.

At a meeting on 26 October, members of the Council's Audit and Standards Consideration sub-committee agreed with an internal investigator’s report that "the behaviours under investigation were not tantamount to a breach of the code of conduct".

Council Leader Terry Fox said in a statement that "the independent recommendations completely exonerate” Iqbal, claiming the allegations leaked to The Star and Now Then were “weaponised in a bid to disrupt the running of the council and smear a hardworking councillor.”

But official minutes of the meeting indicate concerns from members of the sub-committee about the conduct of Iqbal and others at the Council.

The minutes note that the sub-committee "were deeply concerned about the seeming acceptability of the day-to-day behaviours of senior officers and Members illustrated by the complaint.

"In the Sub-committee’s view, [Cllr Iqbal] did not always model the behaviours expected of a senior Member of the Council and this type of behaviour should not have gone unchecked," the document says.

The minutes do not record what the phrase "this type of behaviour" refers to.

The sub-committee also "expressed regret" at the amount of time it took to resolve Ogden’s complaint, which was more than 12 months despite Council guidelines which seek to resolve complaints against councillors within 12 weeks.

Commenting on the decision, Cllr Iqbal said it was “incredibly welcome news”.

"It’s been a great disappointment to have had this hanging over me for so long, and I’m looking forward to getting back on with the serious and important business of representing local people, improving lives and putting Sheffield first – making it a great place to live and do business."

Iqbal will return to his role as Executive Member for City Futures, Development, Culture and Regeneration at the Council.

The Darnall councillor was "stepped aside" from his duties on the Council's Cooperative Executive after Ogden went public with his complaints in June.

Simon Odgen, former Head of City Regeneration and a Council employee for 36 years, told The Star that many of his allegations, including those about Iqbal's associations with developers, were referred to the local Labour group, rather than Sheffield Council.

“The failure to consider and investigate the whole complaint and evidence as I presented it has served to obscure the repeated pattern of public consultations being agreed and then cancelled or buried when they appeared to conflict with the interests of particular developers and the patent incompetence of Coun Iqbal to fulfill his role,” Ogden said.

Sheffield’s bid to regenerate Castlegate, which part of Ogden’s complaint relates to, was recently approved by central government. £20 million will be spent on the former castle site and a new Park Hill Art Space from the Levelling Up Fund.

Cllr Iqbal did not immediately respond to a question about whether he would be involved in the regeneration of Castlegate in the future.

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