Former Covid taskforce chief apologises for attending her own leaving do during lockdown
THE FORMER Director of the UK Government's Covid taskforce has apologised for going to her own leaving do during lockdown.
Kate Josephs, who is now the chief executive of Sheffield Council, issued an unprecedented statement on social media this afternoon.
Ms Josephs said she was "cooperating" with the Sue Gray inquiry, but felt the need to speak out and apologise after she and her colleagues gathered in the Cabinet Office in December 2020, to mark her departure from the department.
At the time of the party - December 17 - London was in Tier 3, which stated people should work from home and not mix indoors.
In her statement, she said she was "truly sorry", and explained: "As people know I previously worked in the Cabinet Office COVID Taskforce where I was Director General from July 2020 to December 18, 2020.
"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 region to support our covid response and recovery.
"That is why I have decided to make a statement."
She said that on December 17, 2020, she "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 that people will feel as a result. Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic, and I apologise unreservedly.
"The specific facts of this event will be considered in the context of the Cabinet Office investigation. I did not attend any events at 10 Downing Street.
"I am grateful for the ongoing support of colleagues and partners and need now to ask that people allow the Cabinet Office to complete its investigation.
"I will not be able to respond to any further questions until the Cabinet Office investigation is complete."
On the day of Ms Josephs' leaving do, the Government was advising people not to have a work Christmas party.
A member of the public asked "Hi there, can a Christmas party be held in a workplace at the end of a working day with staff members only? We’re struggling to find advice"
The UK Government's official twitter account responded: "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."
It has been reported that dozens of members of the Covid Taskforce attended the drinks party despite the restrictions in place at the time.