Sue Gray report: Sheffield Council leader's ‘deep disappointment’ at Sue Gray report

Sheffield Council’s leader Terry Fox said he is deeply disappointed after reading the details of Kate Josephs’ leaving party in the Sue Gray report.

The long-awaited report stated guidelines were not followed at her leaving drinks – to mark the end of her time as director general of the Covid Taskforce – which were attended by between 20 and 30 officials including those in senior positions. It took place the month before she started her Sheffield job.

Councillor Fox, of Labour, said: “I’ve seen Sue Gray’s report today at the same time as everyone else and it clearly paints a picture that will anger people across the country, and in Sheffield.

“In terms of Kate Josephs, I’ve expressed my feelings and deep disappointment many times about the gathering that took place in her former role at the Cabinet Office – I find myself having to do that again today. The gathering on December 17 was held while our communities were making massive sacrifices. This is not what the people of Sheffield want or deserve to see.

Councillor Terry Fox, leader of Sheffield Council and Sheffield Labour.

“The cross-party committee that was set up to look into this issue following Kate Josephs’ statement in January will now need to meet again before any decision can be made. We’ve all had to wait for the process to be followed properly, and we must continue to let the committee do its work. It’s absolutely vital we get this right for Sheffield and all involved.”

What did the report say?

Food and drink such as crisps, beer and prosecco were brought to the event which had background music playing from a smartphone and speeches.

According to the Sue Gray investigation, the plan was for it to be time limited, socially distanced and no one was to travel into the office to participate.

Kate Josephs, chief executive of Sheffield Council

However, on a typically day there were approximately 12 members of staff and the event had between 20 and 30, according to the report.

It added that social distancing and other precautionary measures did not happen as there was mingling between groups.

Despite the event having a timeframe of between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, it was said to have ended at between 11pm and 11.30pm and Ms Josephs reportedly left the party at around half past midnight after tidying up.

The Telegraph reported that Ms Josephs was among those fined by Scotland Yard after its investigation into the partygate scandal.

Kate Josephs.

When will Sheffield Council decide boss’ fate

The authority said a rigid process that forms part of the contract for any statutory officer must be followed and very little information about that can be shared publicly.

Ms Josephs has been on paid leave from her £190,000 a year role since January while Eugene Walker, a senior council officer who is normally paid around £150,000 a year, is covering for her on extra pay.

She was put on leave after admitting in a statement on social media that she gathered with colleagues in the Cabinet Office for the drinks while government restrictions were in place.

A cross-party committee – which paused deliberations on her future while local elections took place last month – is to resume its discussions about her future at the authority soon.