Comment: End this nightmare and make a decision on Kate Josephs

Would there be pitchforks at the town hall doors if Kate Josephs returned to work tomorrow?

Friday, 10th June 2022, 3:46 pm

Could she pick up where she left off? Is she tough enough to ride out those first few difficult days?

Would her colleagues see it as business as usual, or would some make her life impossible?

It is five months since the city council’s chief executive went on gardening leave over lockdown leaving drinks in the Cabinet Office. She had been departing her role as director general of the Covid taskforce which was writing lockdown rules.

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Kate Josephs, CEO of Sheffield City Council. Picture Scott Merrylees

The Sue Gray report further tarnished her reputation with accounts of 40 people invited to a five-hour party.

But overshadowing this, now, for many, is an investigation which has gone on so long and become so convoluted it is simply surreal.

A secret investigator with a secret remit, taking months to make secret recommendations – over something that has already been admitted – also makes a mockery of notions of efficiency, accountability and openness in the public sector. As well as costing a fortune, probably – for that too is secret.

And still we don’t have a verdict.

Meanwhile, the silence is filled with gossip about Labour wanting her gone, the Lib Dems and Greens wanting her to stay and Government ministers avoiding Sheffield because it is a basket case.

Kate Josephs was seen by some as a dynamic new broom with great connections who was engaging people and driving progress. She had assembled a top team in her own image, some of whom are still following her example of getting out into communities and meeting people.

But the lack of leadership and the damage to the city’s reputation is having an impact.

The committee that holds her fate in their hands will meet on Thursday. It is understood they have had the investigator’s findings for a while. But there is some uncertainty over what will happen.

After delays due, apparently, to the Met investigation, the Sue Gray report and the local elections, further hold ups would be unacceptable.

The public and the city is begging for release from this nightmare. Please, please, please, make a decision.