The long-delayed report into alleged lockdown breaking parties at the heart of Government has finally been published.
The damning investigation levels severe criticism at No 10’s leadership, senior officials and the flaunting of rules by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
One of the 15 parties investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray was the leaving drinks for Sheffield City Council’s current CEO Kate Josephs.
The drinks were held as Ms Josephs left her role as a director general of the Government’s Covid taskforce – meaning she was a lead figure in writing lockdown restrictions for the country.
The report lays bare how up to 40 staff were invited to the five-hour ‘Covid secure drink’ event on December 17, 2020, when the UK was in a tier three lockdown.
The report details Ms Joseph’s party on pages 29 and 30.
It shows how an updated invitation was sent on December 16 on Josephs’ behalf from her email account to 40 members of staff for a two hour event. The event eventually took place between 7pm and 11.30pm.
The invitation read: “We are leaving the COVID taskforce :(
“Given higher COVID restrictions please do not travel into London for this if you wouldn’t otherwise have been in the office.
“We’d love it if you could join us for a farewell, COVID secure drink.”
The report points out that 12 people were typically in the office on a given day. Between 20 and 30 people attended the event.
The report continues: “In the week before the event there was a discussion with the Second Permanent Secretary, James Bowler, about the planned event.
“He said that it could take place on the basis that it was time limited, that no one was to travel into the office specially and that it should be socially distanced.”
But the report lays bare that whatever ‘COVID secure’ was meant to mean, it did not last.
The report reads: “The intention was to follow the social distancing guidance by observing a one way system, social distancing and other precautionary measures.
“This did not happen as those in the room gathered in small groups, and there was also mingling between groups.
“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.”
The event lasted hours and “began to wind down” by 10pm. By 10.30pm, six to eight staff were left. At 22.44pm, someone ordered six pizzas for the group.
Kate Josephs left at around 00:23am after tidying up.
Meanwhile, “a small number of staff” took the link door into No 10 Down Street to join a separate leaving party between 00:43am and 00:49am.
Kate Josephs has been on leave since January 14 after confessing to attending the party in a social media post. She has been paid over £55,000 in that time.
She was reportedly fined £50 by the Met Police in the first wave of FPNs in April.