Sue Gray report: Sheffield Council CEO Kate Joseph’s Judgment Day has arrived - Vulcan

“There was food and drink available, including crisps, beer and prosecco that had been purchased by individuals attending. Background music was played through a smartphone. Some people left after the speeches.”

By Vulcan
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 1:30 pm

This is the section of Sue Gray’s long-awaited report into ‘partygate’ describing the leaving do for Kate Josephs.

Back in December 2020, Sheffield council’s chief executive was the outgoing head of the cabinet office’s Covid taskforce.

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After the revelations of Sue Gray's report, it's Judgement Day for Sheffield City Council CEO Kate Josephs. Picture Scott Merrylees

So not just any civil servant, but the official responsible for helping draw-up rules the rest of us had to follow. Unlike Boris and his cronies. Or Ms Josephs.

She has now been off work for months – still drawing her whopping £190,000 a year salary – while embarrassed council chiefs don’t know what to do with her.

Her dwindling band of supporters in the town hall and across the city were presumably hoping the Gray report would be a glancing blow.

What if half a dozen colleagues quietly saying farewell had somehow been blown out of all proportion and swept-up into Boris’s ‘last-days-of-the-Roman-Empire’ fiasco?

Instead, as the report makes clear, she sought permission for her own leaving do, with 20-30 people attending.

The social distancing rules that were part of the agreement were not followed with attendees meant to observe a ‘one-way system, social distancing and other precautionary measures.’

As Sue Gray’s report makes clear, ‘This did not happen as those in the room gathered in small groups, and there was also mingling between groups.’

The council’s dilemma is what do they now do about Ms Josephs.

She’s already received a fixed penalty notice for breaking Covid rules, but the report doesn’t give much indication about what should happen to her.

When she was appointed the hope was that she would bring a bit of glamour to the dreary old city council.

She was billed as a Whitehall high-flier and be able to get things done for Sheffield.

Ironic, then, that these contacts are the thing that has landed her in this mess.

The council would have been better off recruiting a seasoned local government professional instead.

What this boils down to is a massive error of judgment on Ms Josephs’ part, as well as a lack of leadership – not exactly qualities a chief executive should be without – by not pushing back against the culture of partying in government offices.

After all – and not wanting to labour the point at all – she was in charge of the Covid taskforce!

So over to you, Council Leader Terry Fox.

There’s another irony here, with a Labour-led council facing the same dilemma as our sleaze-mired Tory PM, working out who can be saved from this scandal and who should be cut adrift.

The plan being cooked-up in the town hall will be to bring Kate Josephs back, but there will need to be a fig leaf. Some show of contrition.

Here’s an idea. Make her pay back the money she has received for not doing a hand’s turn these past few months. That would show remorse.

Vulcan will not be holding his breath. He is off to eat crisps, drink warm prosecco and listen to some tunes on his phone.