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Sheffield Council invested £7.5m in Qatar state bank

Councillor acknowledges that the “ethical values” of the deposit, which the Council says was a one-off, “do not align with the values of our city.”

Sheffield Council has invested taxpayers’ money in World Cup host nation Qatar’s state bank, it has emerged.

After being listed in a published Freedom of Information request as having made investments in Qatar, the Council confirmed to Now Then that it put £7.5m into Qatar National Bank (QNB) for one year from 2016 to 2017.

The deposit, which made a return of 1.07%, will raise questions about the Council’s ethical considerations when choosing how to invest its money and potentially brings it into conflict with its own Equality Objectives. QNB is 50%-owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, the state’s $450bn sovereign wealth fund.

Qatar criminalises homosexuality and its male guardian rules mean that women are unable to work, travel, pursue education and marry freely. More than 6,500 migrant workers are estimated to have died in Qatar while working on World Cup infrastructure projects between 2011 and 2020.

Asked if the investment ran contrary to the Council’s commitments to equality, Councillor Bryan Lodge, Chair of the Strategy and Resources Policy Committee at Sheffield City Council, told Now Then that “the ethical values associated with this investment should have been taken into account because they do not align with the values of our city.

"Regardless of age, gender, race, background, sexuality or any other personal factors, everyone in Sheffield should have the freedom to make the choices they want in life, and for us to truly support this, these values must run through all our activity.

"Financial management is one of the biggest challenges we face but in meeting this, we should not compromise on the values that we want everyone in Sheffield to uphold. Equality has to be a priority for decisions we make now and in the future. We are, and will continue, working hard to ensure this happens."

City centre town hall 4
Rachel Rae Photography

Lodge noted that “[the Council] have not invested in QNB since, nor do we intend to.” The transaction took place through an “agency treasury service,” meaning the Council was never a customer of the bank, it said.

Sheffield Council did not respond by deadline to a question from Now Then about how it will consider the ethical dimensions of its future investments.

The Gulf emirate has faced widespread condemnation in the lead-up to the World Cup. On Sunday the BBC chose to broadcast half an hour of critique and criticism instead of showing the opening ceremony on its live broadcast.

Others have accused Western nations of double standards on their judgements of Qatar on the basis of its human rights record, particularly in light of the 2026 World Cup being hosted in the USA, which Amnesty International says has "repeatedly used lethal force in countries around the world [...] in violation of its obligations under international human rights law and, where applicable, international humanitarian law."

by Sam Walby (he/him)

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