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Former head of Covid taskforce apologises for Cabinet Office leaving do

14 January 2022

he former head of a government taskforce responsible for Covid rules has apologised for a “boozy” leaving do days before Christmas.

Kate Josephs, formerly the Director General of the Cabinet Office’s Covid taskforce, confirmed she had gathered for drinks with her colleagues for her leaving party on December 17, 2020.

The taskforce is responsible for co-ordinating the government’s response to the pandemic, and plays a key role in drawing up potential Covid rules.

Ms Josephs issued an apology for the event, allegedly held at 70 Whitehall, after the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported “dozens” of people had attended in spite of tier three lockdown rules in place at the time.

The measures prevented Londoners from socialising indoors with those outside their household or support bubble.

Kate Josephs

/ Social media

In a statement, Ms Josephs, now the chief executive at Sheffield City Council, said: “On the evening of the 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 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 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.”

Sheffield City Council leader Terry Fox said the chief executive has discussed with him what happened and apologised face-to-face.

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.”

An investigation into alleged lockdown breaking events in government, including at Downing Street, is being led by senior civil servant, Sue Gray.

Ms Josephs said she was “co-operating fully” with the investigations.

According to the Telegraph newspaper, she declined to say whether she believed the event broke rules when approached for comment.

The revelation comes just a day after it was revealed that two more parties were held at Downing Street the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral.

The Queen was forced to sit alone at her husband’s funeral because of strict Covid rules at the time.