Head of Covid taskforce Kate Josephs apologises for 'boozy' leaving party

14 January 2022, 16:26 | Updated: 14 January 2022, 17:25

Kate Josephs has apologised for the gathering which took place on 17 December
Kate Josephs has apologised for the gathering which took place on 17 December. Picture: Twitter

By Elizabeth Haigh

The former head of the Cabinet Office Covid Taskforce which devised lockdown restrictions, has apologised for holding a leaving do on 17 December 2020 during lockdown.

Then Director General of the Cabinet Office Covid Taskforce, Kate Josephs, tweeted a statement apologising for the gathering, which took place the day before the Number 10 Christmas party.

Ms Josephs said: "I have been cooperating fully with the Cabinet Office investigations and I do not want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation.

"However as Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council I am responsible for leading the organisation and working with partners across the city and the reign to support our covid response and recovery."

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She continued: "On the evening of 17 December, I gathered with colleagues that were at work that day, with drinks, in our office in the Cabinet Office, to mark my leaving the Civil Service.

"I am truly sorry that I did this and for the anger people will feel as a result.

"Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic, and I apologise unreservedly."

The event took place at a time when indoor socialising was not permitted.

She denied attending any gatherings at 10 Downing Street, and thanked her colleagues for their "ongoing support."

The Taskforce plays a huge role in developing Covid policy.

Social media users have widely criticised Ms Josephs, with one Twitter user writing: "Apology not accepted!"

Ms Josephs is now the CEO of Sheffield City Council.

The Telegraph reports that "dozens" of people attended the gathering, and that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was invited.

The Cabinet Office "categorically" deny that Mr Case attended.

Sheffield City Council leader, Councillor Terry Fox, said: "Kate has made a statement today about a gathering that happened in the Cabinet Office last year.

"I have discussed this in person today with Kate on a one-to-one and she has said sorry.

"To be honest I need to express my deep disappointment - people will rightly feel angry and let down. I get that completely.

"After everything that Sheffield has been through during the pandemic, this is news that we did not want to receive. 

"Over the last year, Kate’s been an asset to our city, and she is working tirelessly for Sheffield and it’s people. Our residents will understandably have questions and concerns, and we await the findings of the investigation."

The leaving party took place on the same day that permanent secretary Simon Case held a gathering in his private office.

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The apology comes after Downing Street apologised to the Queen for holding two parties the night before Prince Philip's funeral, during a period of national mourning.

It is unclear whether this apology was made by Mr Johnson himself or by a member of staff.

These claims emerged last night and led to current Deputy Editor of the Sun, James Slack, apologising earlier today for attending on the night of April 15 2021.

Mr Slack used to be Boris Johnson's Director of Communications.

The allegations surrounding the party on April 15, running into the early hours of April 16, include reports that a member of staff went to the local Co-op and filled a suitcase with alcohol.

Mr Slack has said the event should not have taken place and apologised "unreservedly for the anger and hurt caused."

Labour and some Conservative MPs have called for the Prime Minister to resign following weeks of party scandals.

These calls escalated after Boris Johnson admitted to attending a gathering in the Downing Street garden in May 2020.

He told the Commons he believed it was a "work event" but that in hindsight he should have realised "millions of people" would not see it in the same way.

In December, the Prime Minister repeatedly denied that any rules had been broken, and said no parties had taken place.

Sue Gray, of the civil service, is conducting an enquiry into all allegations.

The Metropolitan Police has said it will wait until the conclusion of the enquiry to consider investigating.