Did the Chief Executive’s pay rise comply with ‘the rules’?

We haven’t forgotten the recent disquiet over the council’s chief executive’s pay rise, and we’ll almost certainly keep commenting about it.  We believe that the council has to take action – voluntarily or otherwise – to earn public trust.

You will know that, almost certainly only because of the disquiet (the pay rise was apparently approved some six months before the council said anything publicly,) the council recently justified the pay rise by saying:

“In 2018 the previous Leader of the Council decided that a full review of the senior management structure was needed and should include consideration of the Chief Executive’s remuneration, which was last reviewed in 2004.

 “In early 2019 an allowance equivalent to £15,000 per annum was approved by the then Leader to recognise the additional work and responsibilities being undertaken by the Chief Executive.”

Now, of course, that might just have been carelessly written – though we doubt it.  But the wording gives no indication that anyone other than the Leader was involved in determining the size of the pay rise.  It gives no indication that there is any detailed record available of any analysis upon which it was based.  It gives no indication of any prior intent to explain the increase to residents.

If these indication are a true reflection of the actual circumstances, the Leader’s actions would almost certainly not be in compliance with the council’s own constitution, which states: “All decisions of the Council will be made in accordance with the following principles……due consultation and the taking of professional advice from officers; a presumption in favour of openness; providing information on the options considered and giving reasons for the decision taken”

The council’s constitution has further requirements regarding changes in the remuneration of council employees.  We’ll probably have to submit a Freedom of Information enquiry to find out whether these, and the constitution as a whole, were complied with.

We can find no response to the e-mail that we sent to the Executive Head of Finance enquiring about the rationale behind the pay rise.  We do not believe that the somewhat superficial statement that we’ve quoted above would be sufficient to satisfy an auditor.  Because residents have the right to make their views known to the council’s auditor, we will be writing again to the Executive Head requesting that he informs the auditor that, in our view, the latest Financial Statements provide insufficient information to justify the pay increase, and that, therefore, the auditor cannot provide assurance that the council provides good value for money.  The auditor can decide whether we’re over-reacting or not.

The council provides an official Complaints Procedure. .This has to be followed before submitting a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, but it does mean that there are options for investigating the way the pay rise was approved and implemented.  .

16 thoughts on “Did the Chief Executive’s pay rise comply with ‘the rules’?

  1. The council’s “statement” is remarkable in its brevity and just leaves questions unanswered. It’s almost as if the council can’t see what all the fuss is about and are just waiting until people lose interest. With no disrespect to Camberley Eye and some of the other local forums I suspect the subject is not sufficiently high profile for them to care too much. We’re only local residents and council tax payers after all. I do wish you well in pursing the matter and I am open to suggestions on what we can do to help.

    • I’d to the same if I were a senior council officer – keep my head down and wait for the fuss to die down. But the Eye takes a long-term view. Even if there’s no attributable consequence of highlighting a current scandal, just possibly the council will think a bit more carefully before acting ‘next time’. Mission accomplished.

      Two petitions have been raised about this. One is already mentioned on this blog. Another will be shortly. Make sure you sign!

  2. There has been RADIO COVERAGE of this on BBC Radio Surrey, yesterday at 8am
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07hwr7v

    BBC Surrey – Breakfast on BBC Surrey, 08/08/2019
    Mark Carter sits in alongside Lesley McCabe. Morning news, travel, weather and sport.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk

    AND TONIGHT ON BBC SOUTH TODAY AT 1.30pm and 18.30pm.

    ALSO A PETITION HAS BEEN STARTED TODAY
    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/surrey-heath-borough-council-s-ceo-s-pay-increase-of-37-to-ps197-000

    If you feel able please sign it and then ask others in Surrey Heath to do the same.

    Hopefully this won’t go away until council taxpayers are satisfied that they have the full story.

    Would “The Camberley Eye” follow up its excellent coverage of this by giving the petition headline status?

  3. SHBC CEO’s salary – What else is hidden from plain view?

    Please read the following press release from the council today. They are considering the appointment of their own “independent” investigator. Why have they done this now and not followed the rules when the pay award was made?

    “Further to the recent statement that confirmed an allowance equivalent to £15,000 per annum, backdated to October 2016 was approved by the previous Leader to recognise the additional work and responsibilities undertaken by the Chief Executive, a number of enquires have been received on the matter.

    At the request of the Chief Executive, the Performance & Finance Scrutiny Committee will be asked to consider the appointment of an independent investigator to examine the procedure followed to award the additional duties allowance. The Chief Executive’s basic salary for 2018/19 was £120,687 plus the additional duties allowance of £15,000.

    Leader of the Council, Councillor Richard Brooks said, “The Council is committed to openness and transparency. All Councillors and officers will cooperate fully in the independent review with any recommendations taken to Full Council.”

    In the meantime I would like to thank the Chief Executive Karen Whelan for her continued dedication and hard work on behalf of the Council.”

    It is seven months since the pay award was made. Why has it taken so long for the award to be made public by a Council which says it is “committed to openness and transparency”?

    The pay rise, was £53,000 from £144,000 in 2017-18 to £197,000 in 2018-19 an increase of 37% as stated in the Draft Financial Report 2018-19.

    Why is it only now, seven months after the pay award was made that the council has made public the pay rise and only then in response to enquiries? Are they really committed to “openness and transparency”? This has only been highlighted as someone carefully read the Draft Financial Statements.

    Why didn’t the CEO get the approval of the Full Council for the pay rise as required by Surrey Heath’s Constitution? The CEO knows the rules and is now asking for an independent review to be considered. The CEO knows what happened so why does the CEO need to ask for an independent inquiry? This should be requested by the Council. This press release states that the Leader of the Council, acting alone approved the pay rise. The approval was unconstitutional as it was agreed only on the authority of the Leader of the Council.

    Why is it only now that an independent investigation is being considered?

    Please sign the petition below to get a truly independent investigation and answer the other points that may not be addressed by the Council.
    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/surrey-heath-borough-council-s-ceo-s-pay-increase-of-37-to-ps197-000?just_launched=true

    • I’m trying hard NOT to comment on the size of the increase, Rose. Just possibly (and i’m bending over backwards here), it’s justified. But the heart of the problem is that we don’t know that it’s justified and the council seems unable to show that it’s justified. In which case, it shouldn’t have happened.

  4. Apparently if the leader had been voted for ‘A strong leader’ than decisions would in effect not need to be put to the members for consideration. Decisions need only pass between the Leader and the Ceo.

    So if this is the case, then it is following the rules. The only thing to add is, thank you to all you councillors who voted this in.
    You did a massive public disservice for keeping this tyrant in power!

    By the way you now have Cllr Brooks as a strong leader!!! Go figure! A weak puppet with a strong ceo hand up his a##!

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