Anger as partying council boss keeps job after breaking lockdown laws

Former council leader says Kate Josephs showed ‘complete lack of personal integrity’

<p>Kate Josephs hosted an illegal party while head of the Cabinet Office’s Covid-19 taskforce </p>

Kate Josephs hosted an illegal party while head of the Cabinet Office’s Covid-19 taskforce

The lockdown-breaking boss of one of England’s biggest councils will remain in her £200,000-a-year post after six months on full-paid leave while she was investigated for throwing an illegal party at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kate Josephs, who is now chief executive of Sheffield City Council, was head of the government’s Covid-19 taskforce when she hosted illegal leaving drinks in December 2020.

When revelations emerged in January this year, she was granted discretionary leave by the Labour-run authority in South Yorkshire while a cross-party committee investigated.

The council said Ms Josephs had now received a written warning but no other action would be taken. It has also been confirmed for the first time that she received a police fine over the party, at which 30 people enjoyed prosecco, beer and take-away pizzas over five hours.

In a statement, Ms Josephs apologised for hosting the party and promised to “work harder than ever for our city”.

But the authority’s decision to keep the chief executive in her post sparked anger in a city where 1,400 people have died from coronavirus.

“It’s ludicrous that she can stay on,” said Lord Paul Scriven, a former Lib Dem leader of the council. “She is now renowned for two things, both in Sheffield and outside: breaking the law and then not telling the full truth about it when first asked. So now we have a situation where the city is hampered for years to come by trying to rebuild trust in one individual who has shown a complete lack of personal integrity.”

Ms Josephs said: “I am so very sorry that for too many people – including those I serve in Sheffield and the colleagues I am proud to work alongside – my actions brought back personal pain and suffering experienced during the Covid pandemic.

“Knowing this is something that will stay with me forever, I cannot and will not brush that hurt under the carpet; all I can offer is my sincere apology and my promise to work harder than ever for our city.”

She added that she had not admitted to the party when asked about it by local journalists long before the revelations came to light because government officials had “asked [me] to respect the confidentiality of the Cabinet Office's independent investigation”.

Council leader Terry Fox said that the decision had been made in the interests of the city.

“I am here to deliver for Sheffield, and that is what matters the most to me now,” he said. “The chief executive’s work to rebuild trust across the city and organisation begins now.”

In a show of support, several councillors said they were pleased Ms Josephs would be kept on.

“She is dynamic and forward-thinking,” Green Party councillor Paul Turpin said. “She has come in and changed the culture here to one where things get done. She made one mistake in her previous job, so I don’t see the good of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

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