The council said an independent investigation into Kate Josephs' leaving drinks party, which took place in December 2020 to mark the end of her role as director general of the government’s Covid Taskforce, will take at least four weeks to complete and likely longer.
In the meantime, the chief executive will remain on discretionary leave and interim leadership arrangements will be put in place – the details of which are expected to be released soon.
Councillor Terry Fox, leader of the council, said: “I know there is understandably interest from people in Sheffield, and I have spoken before about the depth of feeling we’ve seen on this issue – I absolutely understand that.
“I have to be clear though that there’s a rigid process we need to follow. That is why we have put a committee in place to deal with this, and we will need to let them, and the independent investigator, do their work.
“In the meantime, I’m putting interim arrangements in place, and the council will continue – as it has been – to deliver for the people of Sheffield. There are fantastic things happening here in Sheffield and we have exciting times ahead. Our committed workforce have been fantastic, and together we continue to drive this city forward.”
Coun Fox added: “I’m not aware yet who that external investigator is going to be and it is going to have to take as long as it takes unfortunately.
“But there are questions to be answered and we need to look into that. As I’ve said, people have got to look in the mirror and get to where they are. So we will see how that investigation goes.”
Why is there an independent investigation?
The council set up a cross party committee to decide what should happen after Ms Josephs admitted to the Cabinet Office gathering in a public statement on Twitter amid various partygate revelations.
The committee later announced it was bringing in an external investigator.
Coun Fox said: “There is just a process that we follow and obviously we are learning as we go…part of that process is the committee could make decisions and in their deliberations they said they would favour to go to this external investigator so we just have to follow that.
“I can honestly say to you I am so far out of my comfort zone and obviously being a trade unionist I’ve always been on the other side of the desk.
“I’m acutely aware people have an agreed process and that process has to be followed and also to be fair to Kate, it gives her an opportunity to put her side over as well.”
The council said there is a strict process that needs to be followed that forms part of the contract for any statutory officer and there is very little information it can share publicly, therefore it will not be commenting on the progress of the investigation while it takes place.
The investigator will report back to the committee which will then decide its next steps.