The Treasury Department was forced to defend officials who threw an “impromptu” drink party to celebrate Rishi Sunak’s spending review that fall during the lockdown.
A spokesman insisted it was a “small number” of staff celebrating at their desks, although the number was reportedly closer to two dozen officials at the event.
A team of officials working on the announcement of the review of the Chancellor’s spending stayed on after hours for the party on Nov. 25, 2020, the Times reported.
Government sources said the drinks were not planned, but officials involved bought beer and wine from a nearby supermarket.
A Treasury Department spokesman told the Guardian, “A number of HMT staff came into the office to work on the 2020 spending review. We were made aware that a small number of employees spontaneously had drinks at their desks after the event.
“The Treasury Department didn’t organize a personal departmental party last Christmas.”
It is understood that Sunak did not attend the event and was unaware at the time that it was taking place.
During the lockdown in November, non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues as well as pubs, bars and restaurants were closed. People were told to stay home except for limited reasons, including work, when it could not be done from home.
The latest controversy comes as Downing Street and Prime Minister Boris Johnson come under fire on allegations of parties broken against Covid rules in the run-up to last Christmas.
The Prime Minister’s current communications director, Jack Doyle, reportedly addressed employees and presented awards last year at a No. 10 Christmas party that is currently under investigation.
Doyle, who was then assistant director of communications on Downing Street, is due to attend the meeting on Jan.
The Prime Minister has announced that an internal investigation, led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, will look into reports of the event. The investigation was later expanded to include another celebratory event and an employee departure report. Downing Street said it canceled plans for a Christmas party this year.
Johnson’s former advisor Dominic Cummings tweeted Friday that there were “many” photos of # 10 parties that “inevitably come out.”
Reports from government officials allegedly breaking lockdown restrictions while the rest of the country couldn’t see friends and family last Christmas have seen Sir Keir Starmer’s Labor move forward in opinion polls.
Meanwhile, two police officers were disciplined for attending a party and violating Covid rules. Police were called to the meeting at a house in Hove, East Sussex, at 8:46 p.m. on May 15, where they found several colleagues off duty.
At the time, coronavirus regulations said that individuals should only mingle with their own household or related households. Ten officers were fined £ 200 each for breaking the rules.
A police spokesman said an internal investigation resulted in one of the police officers being given a written warning while an acting police officer was given a “reflexive practice” requiring officers to reflect on their actions.
DS Rachel Carr added, “We have taken Covid-related violations very seriously and do not tolerate this type of behavior that is below the standards we expect from our officials and employees.”