Born and brought up in the Lozells neighbourhood in Birmingham, the area he represents, Councillor Waseem Zaffar is the Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council. This brings together the responsibilities for: sustainable transport policy and strategy to improve connectivity and safety across all modes of travel; while working with partners to develop liveability and environmental improvement for Birmingham. Waseem serves as a Director of Birmingham International Airport, West Side Business Improvement District and the Trent Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. For many years he was a local magistrate, as well as the CEO of a local not-for-profit organisation and has had his community work recognised by a number of awards including an MBE for services to the voluntary sector. Waseem has previously served as the Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Transparency, Openness and Equality as well as being the Chairman of a number of committees during his time at Birmingham City Council.

He is also a Non-Executive Director at the Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust which includes City Hospital where he was born. At the Trust, he chairs the Charity Funds Committee. Waseem also serves as a School Governor at Heathfield Primary School, which he attended as a child and his eldest son attends today. Waseem’s work has focussed on successfully bringing people together, from different faith groups to large corporations, local schools and grass root projects to improve their local communities. He has also worked with partners to develop a sports complex, now managed by the community via a community asset transfer, and has led projects to raise awareness, prevent and treat diabetes and TB. Always a proud Brummie, Waseem developed the successful Birmingham Heritage Week which has just completed its third year.

The projects promotes the Birmingham story over many years and the learning, achievements and contributions of the communities that have come, gone and stayed in diverse Birmingham. He chairs the steering group that has delivered over 500 events as well as a launch event in Parliament, celebrating the contributions of Brummies locally, nationally and internationally. He lives in Lozells in the house he was born into with his family, is a Governor of the primary school he attended, member of Unite the Union, a lifelong (yet still optimistic) Aston Villa fan and enjoys spending summer weekends playing cricket.

How did you get started in your career?

I became passionate about issues affecting young people in Birmingham, particularly in Lozells and Handsworth, whilst studying Logistics with Transport Management at Aston University. Following conversations with like-minded folk, we set up an organisation and I took the lead in developing solutions for young people particularly exploring how we can support disaffected young people. I very quickly learnt that politics and politicians play a lead role in making decisions that can have a life changing impact on communities and became active in the Labour Party. I successfully stood for Councillor in 2011.

What is a highlight of your career?

I have been involved in many positive projects and have a number of highlights but nothing can beat the privilege of being electing Councillor for the neighbourhood I was born in and have lived in all my life – this honour bestowed upon me is something I will never forget.

How would you describe the type of work that you do each day? Why is it important?

Days vary and I divide my week to ensure that I can give the right level of priority to my various roles. I not only serve as a local Councillor for Lozells but I am also the Cabinet Member for Transport & Environment. Birmingham is the largest local authority in Europe so this role requires an immense level of commitment.

I am a Non-Executive Director of the Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust which runs three hospitals; including where I was born, where my dad died and where my children were born, City Hospital Birmingham; Director at West Midlands Rail Board; Director at WestSide Business Improvement District; Member of the Regional Board of the Canal and Rivers Trust; Trustee at Simmerdown CIC and Member of the West Midlands Combined Authority Environment Board. It can be a challenge to balance these commitments around my family and social life, but my I’m naturally very organised and have an excellent staff team supporting me so I can get through most days effectively.

I’ve also recently been elected to the position of General Secretary of Labour Friends of Kashmir working alongside the Chair, Rt Hon Andrew Gwynne MP; National Coordinator, Cllr Wajid Khan (Mayor of Burnley); and a committed team.

There’s a particular local narrative to my work. Not only do I represent the neighbourhood I have lived in all my life, but many of my roles involve working with institutions that I have a personal connection with. I want to give back to the people and organisations that have given me and my family so much over many years.

My multiple identities also play a huge role in who I am, as a politician, a husband and a father. My family hail from the Village of Thub Jageer from Dadyal, Azad Kashmir (Pakistan) and wherever I am, I will never forget my roots, but I am also incredibly proud to be British, proud to be a Brummie and proud to be a practicing Muslim.

What does an average workday look like to you?

The exciting thing about working in local politics is that the days are incredibly varied, there’s always lots going on and new things to respond to and take forward. Monday’s are generally the busiest and during this new the current environment of agile working, I can have up to 10 hours of zoom meetings! These include cabinet member briefings, informal cabinet, meetings with transport partners and stakeholders and calls with constituents. I usually reserve Fridays to exclusively concentrate on ward-related matters, to ensure that whilst I’m working on city wide projects I continue to make the residents who elected me a key priority.

What has been the greatest hurdle for you to overcome in your career?

I’ve faced more than my fair share of hurdles. I’ve faced racism online and offline. I have been trolled and harassed online and offline. But Allah SWT and my mother’s prayers have helped me overcome all personal and professional hurdles which I classify as tests from above. I wake up every morning and treat the day as my last day in political office and want to do everything possible to make the change needed to help my community. I feel the pressure and weight on my shoulders as an elected Councillor and the responsibility this brings – I only wish there were more resources to make the changes needed.

What is the best thing about your job?

The privilege of being able to help others in need. I have been chosen by Allah swt to help them.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to be able to continue serving the community; I’m really enjoying the many roles that I hold. I’m hopeful that Sir Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner will be leading our country in the near future, and look to having the opportunity to serve my community as a Labour Councillor with a Labour Government in office.

How do you unwind?

I love spending time with my family and my two children Mikaeel (5) and Zayaan (2 in September). Me and Mikaeel are season ticket holders at Aston Villa which plays a huge role in our lives, I love supporting my local team and watching the matches with my son. Like a typical British Pakistani household we also love cricket and I watch as often as I can, but am keen to play more in the coming years. I stopped playing club cricket a couple of seasons ago and really miss it.

I also love playing cards with my mates – Saturday evening card games are always a lovely way to unwind – we play Trumps or ‘Rhang’ in Urdu.