A cross-party committee of councillors is to decide the future of the Sheffield city council chief executive, Kate Josephs, a week after she apologised for having leaving drinks in Whitehall during lockdown.
Josephs led the government’s Covid-19 taskforce from July to December 2020. After details of the gathering emerged in the media she released a statement admitting it took place and saying she was “truly sorry”.
Sheffield city council, her current employer, said a committee of councillors would be set up “to consider what steps, if any, should be taken next”.
Terry Fox, the leader of Sheffield city council, said: “I have heard strong and emotional views from across the city. I absolutely understand the reaction after all that Sheffield has been through these last couple of years.
“We now need to let the committee carry out this work and we also continue to await the outcome of the Cabinet Office’s wider report. There is nothing further to add at this time.”
The council said there was a prescribed statutory procedure for roles at this level in local government, which meant it had to be dealt with by a cross-party committee. Josephs, it said, had this week taken a short period of annual leave.
There is no deadline for the committee to report. “We expect the committee to begin work in the coming days,” the council said. “While we cannot yet know how long it will take, we expect it to move at pace. We expect that it will also take in the findings of the Sue Gray report.”
Josephs’ leaving drinks gathering was attended by dozens of officials from the Cabinet Office’s Covid-19 taskforce.
On the day it was held the government’s official Twitter feed replied to a query asking if employers could hold Christmas parties at the end of the working day.
The feed said: “Hi Mick, although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.”
In her statement Josephs, who was director general of the taskforce, said of the leaving drinks gathering: “I am truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result. Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic and I apologise unreservedly.”