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Cross-party committee to consider future of embattled council boss

Sheffield Council Chief Executive Kate Josephs has apologised for breaking Covid restrictions when leaving a previous job at the government's Covid Taskforce.

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Kate Josephs on polling day 2021.

Kate Josephs.

The leader of Sheffield City Council has announced that a cross-party committee of councillors will consider what action to take about the role of Chief Executive Kate Josephs.

On Friday, Josephs apologised for hosting a leaving party from her previous job as head of the government's Covid-19 Taskforce at the Cabinet Office in December 2020.

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

"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."

At the time, London was subject to Tier 3 restrictions which banned most indoor mixing of people from different households. The BBC have reported that Josephs' leaving party is among the events being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

Now Labour council leader Terry Fox has announced that a new committee will "consider what steps, if any, should be taken next."

"I have heard strong and emotional views from across the city. I absolutely understand the reaction after all that Sheffield has been through these last couple of years," he said in a statement.

"We now need to let the committee carry out this work, and we also continue to await the outcome of the Cabinet Office’s wider report."

The law states that cases involving a council Chief Executive must be investigated by a cross-party committee, and can't be dealt with by the leader or the Green-Labour Co-Operative Executive alone.

The committee, which will begin work in the next few days, will meet in private and will be "politically proportionate" to the overall council, but will include at least one member of the Co-operative Executive.

On Sunday, former Liberal Democrat council leader Paul Scriven called for Josephs to stand down, saying that she had "undermined the name of the city."

It is not known how long the committee will take to complete its work, but the council say they expect it to take into account the findings of Gray's report, which will be published in the coming weeks.

by Sam Gregory (he/him)

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