Labour MPs branded ‘hypocrites’ for not speaking out as council boss remains in £190,000 a year job despite party

Kate Josephs – boss of Sheffield City Council – hosted Whitehall drinks while residents said goodbye to loved ones on iPad

Colin Drury
Friday 21 January 2022 08:46
<p>Kate Josephs, former head of Covid-19 Taskforce at Cabinet Office</p>

Kate Josephs, former head of Covid-19 Taskforce at Cabinet Office

Labour MPs who have failed to speak out against a council boss who broke lockdown rules by throwing a party in Whitehall have been branded “hypocrites”.

Kate Josephs, the chief executive of Sheffield City Council, hosted leaving drinks in December 2020 to toast the end of her previous job leading the government’s Covid Taskforce.

Calls are now growing for her to resign from her £190,000-a-year post leading the South Yorkshire authority after the duplicity came to light.

But residents’ anger has also turned on the city’s Labour MPs and councillors who have almost exclusively refused to comment on Josephs - despite many of them having previously called for Boris Johnson to resign for breaking the same rules.

People say their voice is being silenced because their own elected representatives are failing to act on - or even articulate - the widespread outrage in the city.

Among those staying quiet have been shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh and former shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfield.

Lord Paul Scriven, a Lib Dem peer who led the city council between 2008 and 2011, said: “I’m bewildered that they have decided silence is a better way to deal with a very serious issues for the city, particularly in light of how vocal Labour has been in calling for resignation of the prime minister.

“They are right to call for his resignation but it is baffling that they are not applying the same principles to Kate Josephs.”

The Labour-leader of the council, Terry Fox, has said he is to appoint a cross-party committee to investigate “at pace” but both he and his Labour-and-Green cooperative cabinet have stonewalled all further questions.

All of the city’s five Labour MPs, meanwhile – Haigh and Blomfield as well as Gill Furniss, Olivia Blake and Clive Betts – have declined to comment.

It is understood both they and councillors may have been blindsided by last week’s revelations and still feel Josephs is an asset to the council.

But Lord Scriven said: “I was stopped nine times at the station this week. I had to catch a later train because so many people were telling me how angry they were. I’ve had one person write to me to say that, on the day she was sipping champagne, they had to say goodbye to their mother-in-law on an iPad. Sheffield deserves better than that.”

He himself called for Josephs to stand down, a stance which appears to have widespread local support: the editor of the city newspaper, The Star, has said the issue has received more letters in five days than any other subject this decade - including Brexit.

None of the city’s five MPs responded to The Independent’s requests for comment.

Josephs herself has not commented save for a statement released last Friday in which she apologised.

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