Partygate: Kate Josephs investigators told to 'pull their finger out' over Sheffield Council chief suspension

The Kate Josephs affair is damaging Sheffield and investigators need to ‘pull their finger out’ says an employment lawyer

Friday, 13th May 2022, 6:31 pm
Updated Friday, 13th May 2022, 7:13 pm

Jay Bhayani, of Bhayani HR and Employment Law, said the probe was costing a fortune and harming the city’s reputation.

She spoke out as the investigation into Sheffield Council’s chief executive reached 120 days. On a salary of £201,292 - some £16,700-a-month - Kate Josephs has been paid £66,120 to stay at home until it is concluded.

She confessed on January 14 to attending her own leaving do as director general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce in December 2020 and has been on paid leave ever since.

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Kate Josephs confessed to attending her own leaving do as director general of the Government’s Covid Taskforce in December 2020.

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She was reportedly fined £50 by the Metropolitan Police. The council hired an investigator to look into the incident and her conduct in the year she was in the top job in Sheffield when she repeatedly denied any involvement. Once complete, a special panel of councillors will decide her fate.

Ms Bhayani said possible sanctions could range from a ‘telling off’ to an official warning, to her being sacked, although a lesser penalty was ‘much more likely’.

She added: “It’s harder to sack her because it didn’t happen here. But because she is so high profile there is likely to be an implied or expressed term in her contract about bringing the council into disrepute, especially if there is any sense of criminal activity.

Jay Bhayani says the probe is costing a fortune and harming the city’s reputation

“If she lied, then she’s under the same pressure as Boris Johnson to resign.”

The Prime Minister has been accused of presiding over a ‘record’ 100 Covid fixed-penalty notices – including one of his own – from the Partygate investigation. He has so far resisted calls to go.

Ms Bhayani said Kate Josephs has a normal employer-employee relationship with the council. And if her employer had a ‘reasonable’ belief she was dishonest it could take action.

Boris Johnson has been accused of presiding over a ‘record’ 100 Covid fixed-penalty notices as part of the Partygate investigation. (Photo Danny Lawson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

It could also take into account her ability to do the job, whether she had lost the confidence of the people she manages, and the public, and whether she had set a bad example.

On being paid to do nothing, she could ask for payments to be stopped.

Ms Bhayani added: “Due to her position it is incumbent on her to agree a position where she doesn’t take it. The council can’t impose a financial penalty.”

But whatever the level of job, employers had to follow ‘due process’ or face a potential claim for unfair dismissal.

She added: “They also have to be consistent - but this has taken an inordinate amount of time and it is risking damage to Sheffield.

“I would urge Sheffield City Council to complete the process as soon as possible. The authority is notorious for dragging things on but we are paying for it - they need to pull their finger out.”

Lib Dem leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed is on the disciplinary panel. He admitted there was currently ‘nothing in the diary’ for Kate Josephs.

Councillors are negotiating the make-up of the authority after the May elections left no party in overall control. It will be concluded at a meeting on Wedneseday. The next step in the investigation will be after that, Mr Mohammed said.

Kate Josephs was contacted for comment.

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