Partygate: Ex-Covid Taskforce DG could face sanctions over leaving drinks

Sheffield City Council sets up panel to probe chief executive Kate Josephs’ admission about Cabinet Office gathering while pandemic restrictions were in place
Photo: Howard Lake/Flickr/ CC BY-SA 2.0

By Jim Dunton

25 Jan 2022

The Cabinet Office’s former director general responsible for the Covid Taskforce could be subjected to disciplinary action from her new employer after she admitted attending a drinks event to mark her departure from Whitehall despite Covid restrictions being in place.

Kate Josephs left the Cabinet Office in December 2020 to take up the post of chief executive at Sheffield City Council in January last year. As scrutiny of departments’ adherence to coronavirus restrictions on gatherings intensified further, Josephs issued a public statement confirming she attended a leaving drinks event and was co-operating with Sue Gray’s probe into the “Partygate” scandal.

Josephs said she was “truly sorry” about the event and acknowledged people in Sheffield – where her duties include supporting the Covid response – would feel anger about the get-together.

Last week Sheffield City Council leader Terry Fox said Josephs was on annual leave from her role, which is understood to come with a  £190,000 salary,  and that a cross-party committee had been set up to “consider what steps, if any” should be taken next.

“I have heard strong and emotional views from across the city,” he said. “I absolutely understand the reaction after all that Sheffield has been through these last couple of years. We now need to let the committee carry out this work, and we also continue to await the outcome of the Cabinet Office’s wider report.”

Local paper the Sheffield Star called for Josephs to resign from her role ahead of the review, arguing her position was untenable.

The city council said the special committee would meet in private and be made up of a small number of members that would be politically proportionate at the authority, which is under joint Labour and Green Party control.

Sheffield said it was not known how long the review would take, but that work would take in  the findings of Cabinet Office second perm sec Sue Gray’s wider review of events in Whitehall.

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