A former Cabinet Office senior official who admitted attending a leaving drinks event at the department during lockdown is still on “discretionary leave” from her new role in local government more than a month after issuing a public apology, it has emerged.
Kate Josephs left her role as director general of the Cabinet Office’s Covid Taskforce in December 2020 to become chief executive at Sheffield City Council the following month.
This week Sheffield confirmed it had appointed an acting chief executive as a cross-party committee of councillors continues work considering whether Josephs should face any sanctions for the leaving event, which is one of three to have taken place at the Cabinet Office on 17 December 2020.
Council leader Terry Fox said the authority’s current director of resources would work as acting chief exec as the committee’s independent investigation would take “a number of weeks”, during which time Josephs would remain on discretionary leave.
“There’s no doubt this has been a challenging time for the council, but I’ve said before that our workforce have been fantastic and I want to thank them again for continuing to drive this city forward,” he said.
“Eugene Walker will be stepping up as acting chief executive for this interim period, with support from the senior leadership team. We have so much to look forward to in Sheffield this year and together we will continue to deliver for this city.”
Josephs admission about her leaving party prompted an outcry in Sheffield, where her role as the council’s head of paid service made her a key player in coordinating the city's pandemic response.
In a statement she said she was “truly sorry” for what had happened and confirmed she was cooperating with Cabinet Office second perm sec Sue Gray’s investigation into potentially lockdown-breaking gatherings in government buildings.
The leaving event is among the 12 gatherings now being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.