Partygate: Full details of Sheffield Council boss Kate Josephs' lockdown bash

Kate Josephs
Kate Josephs has again apologised.

Crisps, beer and prosecco were on the menu at a lockdown-breaking party held when Sheffield Council's current chief executive left her previous job.

Full details of the get-together in honour of Kate Josephs have been revealed in the long-awaited report by the senior civil servant Sue Gray into parties held at Westminster during the pandemic.

It is understood that Ms Josephs, who was director general of the government's Covid Taskforce, has already been fined £50 over the party at the Cabinet Office in December 2020.

She has been on paid leave from her £190,000-a-year job leading Sheffield Council since the revelations came to light in January.

Today Ms Josephs again apologised "unequivocally" for the gathering and said: "I am truly sorry I did this and the anger that people feel as a result."

What happened in the run-up to Kate Josephs' party?

In the week before the event, on 17 December 2020, there was a discussion about the planned event.

An advisor said that it could take place on the basis that it was time-limited, that no one was to travel into the office specifically and that it should be socially distanced.

At the time the Cabinet Office Covid Taskforce were largely working from home, with the exception of some key staff.


On 16 December 2020, an updated invitation was sent by a Cabinet Office official on behalf of Kate Josephs, from her email account, to 40 members of staff from across the Cabinet Office and No 10. 

It invited them to an event described as "Kate J and [No 10 official] farewell drinks" from 6.30pm to 8.30pm the following day. 

It added: "Given higher Covid restrictions please do not travel into London for this if you wouldn't otherwise have been in the office. We'd love it if you could join us for a farewell, Covid-secure, drink."

The event 

The event began with more than 20 staff. There was a leaving speech in Ms Josephs' honour.

Sue Gray's report said: "The intention was to follow the social distancing guidance by observing a one way system, social distancing and other precautionary measures.

"This did not happen as those in the room gathered in small groups, and there was also mingling between groups.

"There was food and drink available, including crisps, beer and prosecco that had been purchased by individuals attending. 

"Background music was played through a smartphone."

Some people left after the speeches and the event began to wind down between 10pm and and 10.30pm. But a group of up to eight staff remained.

Someone ordered pizzas, the report said, with the event eventually ending at 11.30pm. Kate Josephs left after midnight after tidying up.

Sheffield Council's response

A council committee has already been set up to investigate Ms Josephs' conduct.

In response to the Sue Gray report, council leader Terry Fox 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 17 December was held while our communities were making massive sacrifices. This is not what the people of Sheffield want or deserve to see.

"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."

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