Former Covid Taskforce boss issues apology for attending ‘leaving drinks’ during winter lockdown

Kate Josephs, former director general of the government’s Covid Taskforce, has apologised for attending a gathering in the Cabinet Office in December 2020

The ex-director general of the UK’s Covid Taskforce has apologised for attending a ‘leaving drinks’ held in the Cabinet Office (pictured) during the winter lockdown. (Credit: Shutterstock)

The former head of the UK Government’s Covid Taskforce has issued an apology on Twitter after she revealed that she had attended a gathering which broke lockdown rules in December 2020.

Kate Joseph, former director general of the Taskforce and current Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council, admitted on Twitter that she had attended a gathering on 17 December 2020, which was held in honour of her leaving her post.

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At the time of the gathering, London was under strict Tier Three restrictions.

At a glance: 5 key points

  • Kate Josephs has apologised for attending a ‘leaving drinks’ gathering in December 2020 in the Cabinet Office
  • The former Covid Taskforce director general made her apology on Twitter, detailing that the gathering has been held “to mark my leaving the Cabinet Office” and that it had been held in the Whitehall offices, not Downing Street or Number 10
  • Ms Josephs, who now holds the role of Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council, said she decided to make the public statement due to her current position in “leading the organisation and working with partners across the city and region to support our Covid response and recovery”
  • The apology comes as the Prime Minister and Downing Street continue to be plagued by allegations of parties which broke Covid restrictions, with Downing Street previously apologising to Buckingham Palace for a gathering which took place on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral
  • The multiple alleged parties are currently being internally investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray

What did Kate Josephs say about the gathering?

Ms Josephs broke the news on Twitter that a gathering “to make my leaving the Civil Service” had taken place in the Cabinet Office on 17 December 2020, when strict Covid rules prohibited such mixing between households.

She said that she apologised “unreservedly”, confirming that alcohol was drunk by attendees of the gathering.

She said: “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.

“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 that people will feel as a result. Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic, and I apologise unreservedly.”

She also confirmed that the gathering had taken place inside the Cabinet Office building, adding: “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.”

What else has been said?

Terry Fox, Sheffield City Council leader, said that Ms Josephs has discussed the situation with him, offering her apology.

He said: “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.”

Ms Josephs is set to continue in her role as Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council.

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