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Former government head responsible for Covid rules held ‘boozy’ leaving party during Christmas lockdown

Just a few dozen metres away, in a separate room, a group of officials working for Mr Case were also taking part in an event in his private office where alcohol and snacks were bought by attendees.

The following evening, on Dec 18, dozens of officials and aides hosted an alleged Christmas party in No 10, during which Boris Johnson’s director of communications gave a thank you speech and handed out awards. 

As the Downing Street gathering was getting under way, Ms Josephs marked her final day in Government by posing for a photograph (see main picture) outside the front door of Number 10. 

In a message posted on her social media, she wrote: “Last day today, extremely hard to leave the incredible colleagues who make up the covid taskforce, it has been an honour and a privilege to serve alongside them.”

Ms Josephs, who now serves as the chief executive office of Sheffield City Council, declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph. 

However, while declining to say whether she believed the event broke Covid-19 rules, Ms Josephs confirmed she was “cooperating fully” with the Cabinet Office’s investigation. The Cabinet Office declined to comment.

Multiple gatherings in No 10 

Set up in the spring of 2020, the taskforce’s duties include providing support and advice to the Prime Minister, including the latest data on Covid-19, as well as working with departments across Government on the UK’s overarching strategy. 

Ms Josephs was appointed to the role of director general in July 2020, having previously served as director of the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

She is understood to have reported directly to Mr Case until 2020, when James Bowler, a senior civil servant, was appointed to lead the taskforce as second permanent secretary in the Cabinet Office.

The gathering on Dec 17 is now being investigated by Ms Gray, with the total number of alleged gatherings now under scrutiny believed to total at least nine. 

They span from November 2020 through to April 2021, including multiple gatherings in Number 10 and the Downing Street garden; two events in the Cabinet Office; and one in the Department for Education. 

A former director-general of the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team, Ms Gray was asked to take over the probe shortly before Christmas. 

The change of leadership came after Mr Case was forced to step aside after it emerged that his own office had held a gathering on Dec 17. 

The party, organised by a private secretary in Mr Case’s team, took place outside his personal office. It began at 5.30pm and was listed in digital calendar invitations as “Christmas party!”

The disclosure and the emergence of new gatherings led to the inquiry being delayed until after Christmas, with Whitehall sources now suggesting that Ms Gray’s report will not be ready until the “end of next week” at the earliest.

However, the investigation team is understood to have still been interviewing people throughout this week, with the emergence of two new parties on April 16 now likely to lead to further delays. 

Yesterday it was reported that Ms Gray has not yet found sufficient evidence of criminality to refer the matter to the police, with Scotland Yard also stating it would not launch into its own probe unless she did so.

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