Kate Josephs apologises for breaking Covid lockdown rules: 'Sheffield will make the judgement' - Editor

"I know how angry people will be and I know how sad people will be and disappointed and I am just really sorry for that.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 5:13 pm
Updated Friday, 14th January 2022, 5:24 pm

"I am not making any assumptions. All I need to say is that Sheffield is my priority and I will continue to put Sheffield first."

Those were the words of Sheffield City Council chief executive leader Kate Joseph when I spoke to her this afternoon, just minutes before she admitted that she had been at what the rest of us would describe as a leaving party.

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Kate Josephs spoke to The Star's editor Nancy Fielder this afternoon, just minutes before she admitted that she had been at what the rest of us would describe as a leaving party. Picture: Chris Etchells

She wanted Sheffielders to know that she hopes all the work she has done over the last year to improve the city won't go to waste and she wanted to fully explain to Star readers.

Let me tell you the whole story.

Three different members of The Star team, including myself, have repeatedly in recent weeks asked the press team at Sheffield City Council whether the chief executive had been at a Downing Street party. We were sure she had.

Every time, no matter which date or details given, we were given an absolute denial. It simply was not true, was the answer to every query.

We didn't have photographic evidence and there were no members of the civil service willing to throw colleagues under a bus then ... as it appears they now are.

Those who knew Kate didn't believe it could be true and I spoke to several who told me they thought we had it wrong.

My team were not convinced, no matter how hard it was to believe that any member of a Covid taskforce would break their own rules, and so we kept asking.

Surely, people in those roles would have understood better than anyone why the rules had to be followed and how important it was for them to set the standard?

After all, here in Sheffield we were all battling with not seeing our family. Members of my team lost parents without being able to say goodbye, went through serious illness alone and struggled through like the rest of the city because it was the right thing to do.

Now technically, if we're going to split hairs, the council boss was at a party thrown in her honour just around the corner from where the prime minister works, lives, socialises and seems unable to differentiate between the three.

So when The Star was told that she hadn't been at a Downing Street party, she didn't actually lie - but it also now very clear that we were not told the truth.

The more journalists asked questions and the clearer it became that the story would come out, the more she was forced to put out that statement on Twitter yesterday afternoon.

Kate called me just before she went public with the truth, to explain to you.

There can never be a good time to admit that you broke the rules that you were responsible for setting. I have absolutely no doubt that she is truly sorry but I am not sure that will be enough to save her job or restore faith.

Who else at the council knew and refused to tell the truth? That is impossible to know. Perhaps nobody.

Kate did call around the three political party leaders, her own senior team and a couple of strategic partners in the city yesterday afternoon. In her own words: "I personally rang them to say sorry because I wanted them to hear it from me."

But all that really matters at the end of the day is what you, the Sheffielders who our council is there to serve, make of it all. I have no doubt you won't be backwards in coming forwards.

Whatever the national furore, the celebrity comments on social media and ridiculous number of parties that keep emerging ... Sheffield will make the judgment on this one.

As a colleague said, 'They don't half like a party down south'. If only it were a laughing matter.