Following the independent investigation into the payment of an additional duties allowance to the then Chief Executive Karen Whelan, Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC) has published a redacted copy of the report, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. SHBC has taken independent legal advice to ensure the redactions in the report are balanced between public interest and the employment and data protection rights of those named in the report.
The original Terms of Reference for the independent investigation, as agreed by Full Council on 4 September 2019 were revised by the Interim Deputy Chief Executive after consultation with the Political Group Leaders following the commencement of the investigation.
Councillor Alan McClafferty said, "As Leader of the Council I apologise to all residents on behalf of the Council for the findings of the investigation. We acknowledge the failings within our policies and governance and have already taken a number of steps to address this. Your elected Members and I cannot change what has happened in the past but Officers and Members alike are committed to moving the Council forward and will continue to listen to residents in order to make Surrey Heath a great place to live and work."
Actions which have already been taken or are in progress following the specific recommendations contained within paragraphs 151, 152 and 153 of the report include;
151.1 - The establishment of an Employment Committee at the meeting of Full Council on 18 December 2019. This committee together with various sub-committees put in place provide a clear decision making process for the pay and performance of the Chief Executive together with disciplinary and grievance matters relating to senior officers. Constitutional changes including mandatory training for Members dealing with HR matters and an update to the Officer Employment Rules are in place.
151.2 - The Pay Policy statement has been updated and was recommended for adoption to Full Council by the Employment Committee in February 2020.
151.3 - The establishment of an Employment Committee at the meeting of Full Council on 18 December 2019. This committee provides a clear decision maker for the pay and performance of Chief Officers.
151.4 & 151.5 - The Chief Executive’s job description is currently being reviewed and any subsequent amendments to the Leaders functions will follow
151.6 - A review of financial regulations relating to matters identified in this report has been added to the Governance Working Group's work programme
152 - A review of the Executive procedure rules has been added to the Governance Working Group's work programme
153 - A review of The Speak Up policy (formerly known as the Whistleblowing Policy) has been undertaken and was adopted by the Employment Committee on 30 January 2020. This now includes provision for the Chairman/Vice Chairman of the Employment Committee as a reporting option. Additionally a review of the Officer Code of Conduct and the Member and Officer protocol is underway. Once completed they will be considered for approval by the Full Council.
In addition to the specific recommendations contained within the report a review of expenses and the process for claiming expenses will be undertaken and considered by the Employment Committee. Furthermore all staff will be given training on the processes in place to record gifts and hospitality to ensure compliance.