A FORMER Lord Mayor of Bradford is standing trial at Leeds Crown Court, charged with misconduct in public office.

Naveeda Ikram, 44, pleads not guilty to the single charge – alleged to have taken place between November 1, 2014, and August 31, 2015.

Ikram, of Rooley Crescent, Odsal, Bradford, became the UK’s first female Muslim Lord Mayor in 2011.

She is accused of seeking contracts for Nexus Assist and failing to declare an interest in that company while an elected member of Bradford Council.

She denies any wrongdoing.

Chris Smith, prosecuting, told the jury on Monday that Ikram had used her position and the knowledge which came with being a councillor to “serve herself and her friends” and said she set about “actively promoting” Nexus Assist, a company which provides assistance to young people leaving care in the Bradford area.

The jury heard the company was set up by a gentleman called Ali Arshad, who Ikram later described to police as a “very dear friend”.

Mr Smith said when she was championing Nexus Assist to local authorities, including Bradford and Leeds Council, she did not mention her close friendship with Mr Arshad and failed to mention she was the guarantor of the commercial premises the business occupied.

The jury heard that Ikram was “effectively promoted” in 2015 when she became executive assistant to Councillor Ralph Berry, then Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for health and social care.

Mr Smith said this position carried “real responsibility” and she would have amassed a “great deal of knowledge” and said it was a case of her abusing that knowledge to gain advantage for Nexus Assist.

The jury heard that it in 2015 Mr Arshad attempted to let a property in North Park Road, Bradford, for the business, but failed a credit check and was told he would need a guarantor.

The tenancy agreement was later signed and Mr Arshad and Ikram attended to sign the necessary paperwork. While initial payments were made by Mr Arshad, the next month’s rent and two further payments were received from accounts associated with Ikram.

The jury heard Bradford Council is part of the White Rose consortium, which tenders services for those leaving care. In May 2015, an opportunity arose for Nexus Assist to begin the process to become registered with the consortium, but did not pass the pre-qualification questionnaire, so a formal tender was not submitted.

At the same time, Leeds City Council was trying to secure a place for a girl and in the circumstances, Nexus Assist, an ‘off-list provider’ was asked to help.

As the company was newly-created, staff from the children’s services department set about trying to find out more about the organisation. They visited the premises, but found important documents were not in place and were told it was “all in hand”.

As the team was about to leave, Ikram appeared and introduced herself as a Bradford councillor and said Nexus Assist was “keen to build up links” with Leeds City Council.

Mr Smith told the jury the prosecution believes that was not a coincidence.

The girl was rehoused and when Leeds City Council went to pay the fee, to the account specified on the invoice, that bank account was one of the defendant’s personal accounts.

The jury heard how about a month later Tim Nelson, then commercial manager for children’s social work services at Leeds City Council, received a phone call from Ikram, who was championing Nexus Assist, and said she was calling on behalf of a constituent called Ali Arshad and encouraged the council to use Nexus Assist.

Mr Smith said Mr Nelson had felt she had overstepped the mark and it had been an attempt to use her position to affect the council’s decision-making process. Mr Smith said Ikram had not mentioned her links to the business.

He told the jury that similar attempts to “promote” the company were made to Bradford Council and Kirklees Council.

Mr Smith said the contact with all the witnesses he spoke of is an indication of how and why she was closely involved with Nexus Assist – she had resolved to use her position to help her close friend and she also had a financial interest in the success of the company as she was a guarantor on the tenancy agreement for the premises the business occupied.

The jury heard that Ikram did not consider she had a financial interest in the company and did not see any need to declare that fact to Bradford Council – she was friends with Mr Arshad and had tried to help him by giving him advice.

He said she denies trying to use her position to promote Nexus Assist and denies any real or substantial links to the business.

The jury heard evidence of Ikram’s involvement in a WhatsApp group associated with Nexus Assist and she had sent messages to the group, one of which spoke of plans to make “ferocious demands” of Bradford Council.

Mr Smith described Ikram as an “active member” of the Nexus Assist team, where her role was to give it an “unfair advantage” by promoting the company.

The trial continues.