Political leaflets are not subject to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) requirements that adverts are legal, decent, honest and truthful.

But you can check out the Facts here.

If you get any leaflets with statements or allegations you doubt, send them over and I will gladly Fact-Check them for you.


Claim: ‘The council took the decision1 to award a 30% 2 pay increase to the Chief Executive’

Fact-Check 1: It’s not accurate to say ‘the council took the decision’. The problem was that the process was not followed and the Council didn’t take a decsion as it should have done. 

Fact-Check 2: It’s not accurate to say the CEO was given a 30% pay increase. She was unlawfully given a £15,000 per annum pay increase.  Her basic salary was £121,000, so £15,000 was 12.4%. The unlawful pay rise was backdated and was widely incorrectly reported as a 30% increase. 


From October 2021 election literature:

Election literature distributed October 2021

The Facts

This is old news (it happended in January 2019), and concerns the ex-Leader of the Council, Moira Gibson, and the ex-Chief Eexcutive, Karen Whelan.

Surrey Heath Borough Council has moved on from this. There is a new Leader, Alan McClafferty, a new Chief Executive, Damian Roberts, and new Senior Directors.

It is not the same council.

When the pay increase came to light, an independent report was comissioned from law firm Browne Jacobson.

The terms of reference were to investigate the ‘alleged decision by the former Leader of the Council, Moira Gibson, to award and backdate an “Additional Duties Allowance” to the Council’s Chief Executive, Karen Whelan.’

The independent report was 62 pages long.

Key findings were:

  • On 16 January 2019 Ms Gibson signed a business case that contained a proposal to pay Ms Whelan, an “additional duties allowance” of £15,000 per annum, backdated to April 2017, which payment was to continue until a ‘full review’ of Ms Whelan’s salary was completed. The back dated sum was to be paid “from within existing budgets” and the subsequent payments were to be “built into the budget”.[P3, para 7]
  • Ms Gibson signed two letters addressed to Ms Whelan relating to the decisions to award her additional pay. Those letters created obligations on the part of the Council. They should not have been issued in Ms Gibson’s name. [P18, para 76]
  • Those payments were unlawful either for want of authority (because they could not be made pursuant to Ms Gibson’s delegated authority, as they were tantamount to a pay rise for Ms Whelan and as such were reserved to full Council) or because the relevant procedural requirements were not followed in relation to the decisions to make those payments, and those requirements were of mandatory effect. It is not the position that the Council could not lawfully award Ms Whelan the payments – it could have done at the time and could now ratify the decision. In this case the proper procedures were not followed and as such the decisions to make the payments were not lawfully made. [P24, para 104]

Moira Gibson ceased to be Leader of the Council February 2019 and ceased to be a Councillor May 2019.

Karen Whelan announced her resignation from the Council’s employment April 2020.

Upon publication of the independent report in April 2020, new Leader 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.’

It’s worth explaining what ‘unlawful’ means in the context of the report. It does not mean a breach of criminal law, which is most usually referred to as ‘illegal’ rather than ‘unlawful’.

‘Unlawful’ refers to Administrative Law, the area of law that holds the decisions of public bodies, such as Councils, to account. It gets complicated, and it is based on case law, but two of the established principles are that decisions should be made with due authority, and follow procedure.

This is the basis on which the law firm judged the pay award unlawful, it eiher did not have the requisite authority, or it did not follow procedure.  

The report made a number of recommendations, one of the most significant was the establishment of a new Committee, the Employment Committee, made up of elected Councillors who would ensure that any such changes to salaries were properly scrutinised in future.

Stuart Black, June 2022