At the end of a week where the food options available at lunchtimes in the Council’s schools have made news, I write to let you know that given the feedback there has been to the changes made to school lunch menus introduced last month, a further review is now being undertaken to look at how we might balance the various requirements of attractive food choices, health eating criteria and food labelling regulations. 

While this review is undertaken the sandwich option will return to the school lunch menu. 

Pete Leonard, John Quinn and I had a very positive meeting this morning with Tommy Campbell of Unite and discussed the issues that have been raised during the week.  I am pleased to confirm that managers are committed to working in partnership with members of the catering team and their trades unions to identify and resolve any staffing matters that may arise as a result of any menu changes. 

Views on our school meal provision are always welcome and feedback is actively sought.  If you wish to share your own views or those of your friends, family or school pupils themselves please send them to

Awards success for the Council

Congratulations to all the individual Council colleagues, their teams and the partners they work with in bringing more awards back to Aberdeen.

We achieved more success last week for our work both in supporting the re-establishment of red squirrels in Aberdeen and for our work in delivering affordable warmth to those living in our multi-storey blocks in the city.  Two very different projects, but both recognised nationally for their quality and the impact that they are having here in Aberdeen.

Our red squirrels project was joint winner of the RSPB Species Champion Award in this year’s RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards – more information here and the affordable warmth project won the Excellence in Environmental Sustainability Award at this year’s Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland Excellence Awards – more information here 


Communication and Promotion – Takki Sulaiman

For your information, I post below the recently issued statement from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets concerning our preferred candidate for the post of Head of Communication and Promotion:

Tower Hamlets’ Head of Communications, Takki Sulaiman, will be joining Aberdeen City Council.

Commenting on the news, Stephen Halsey, Head of Paid Service for Tower Hamlets, said: “I want to thank Takki for his contribution to Tower Hamlets since March 2010.  The borough attracts a high calibre of staff who continue to be in demand with high-profile employers across the UK, partly as a result of the experiences gained from the intensity of working for an inner city area with its unique opportunities and challenges.

“I know that Takki’s experience on working on the borough’s 2012 Olympic preparations – for which the council won an award – will be of direct relevance to a growing and ambitious city such as Aberdeen.”

Takki Sulaiman added: “I have spent five enjoyable, interesting and rewarding years communicating what Tower Hamlets has to offer London and indeed the world.  This new post at Aberdeen City Council means that I will help present Aberdeen’s cultural and economic opportunities across the UK and internationally.  On a personal note it is also an opportunity for my family to be nearer relatives who will need our support.

The appointment meantime remains subject to the normal pre-employment checks.

Building the Team – Communication and Promotion

Following up on my blog of yesterday, I am delighted to let you know that Takki Sulaiman is the Council’s preferred candidate for the role of Head of Communication and Promotion.

This new post, established within the Office of Chief Executive has as its overall priority the responsibility for improving the Council’s communication and engagement with the people we all serve. At the same time the post is also responsible for promoting the Council’s activities and achievements locally, nationally and internationally working in partnership with others to ensure that Aberdeen is recognised as a great place to live and work.

The post will play a pivotal role as we move forward both in finalising the new management structure of the Council and in developing the culture of the organisation, seeking to best balance customer experience, staff experience and our use of resources.

The Communication and Promotion service will bring together colleagues currently involved in delivering a range of functions including advertising, city and civic events, city promotion, design, digital communications, freedom of information, internal communications, marketing, media relations, public reporting, twinning and web activity.

Takki joins the Council from his current role as Head of Communications and Marketing at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets where he has been in post for the past 4½ years. Prior to Tower Hamlets he has held a variety of senior communications roles operating across England and Wales and in addition Takki has experience of delivering a number of high-profile events and marketing campaigns.

As you know, the Council’s appointment process for Chief Officers includes a full day “assessment centre” where candidates are put through their paces by a number of panels made up of staff and senior representatives of external stakeholders. The following day, candidates are interviewed by an appointment panel of elected members. Takki emerged from this process as an exceptional candidate and I am certain he will be a tremendous addition to the team here in Aberdeen.

The appointment meantime remains subject to the normal pre-employment checks.


Remembrance Day

At 11.00 am on Tuesday 11th November Council colleagues and visitors to Council properties will once again this year have the opportunity to observe the 2 minute silence in memory of those affected in all conflicts.

Yesterday, it was an honour and a privilege for me to join the Lord Provost at the City’s war memorial for the act of remembrance and to lay a wreath on behalf of Aberdeen City Council.  The service, this year given extra poignancy by the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, gives an opportunity to pause and reflect on the sacrifice made by so many from Aberdeen over the past 100 years. 

Among the many laying wreaths at the service, I was particularly pleased that Martin Carle, a pupil at St Machar Academy and Bill Robertson of the school’s History department were in attendance.  With pupils having laid a wreath earlier in the year at the Menin Gate on a school visit to Ypres, it was entirely appropriate for the school to participate in Aberdeen’s service. 

The importance of World War I projects being undertaken in schools cannot be overestimated in the way they bring home to new generations both the impact of conflicts and the need to remember.

Building the Team

As you know, recruitment is currently underway to the new Head of Service roles agreed as part of the Council’s revised management structure.

Following interviews last week, I am delighted to confirm that we now have a preferred candidate for each of the posts of Head of Economic Development and Head of Communication and Promotion.  Once all the necessary formalities are complete, I will of course let you know the names of our new colleagues and when they will be joining us. 


Shaping Aberdeen – Shaping the Council

From Monday 10th November the latest Employee Opinion Survey is open for responses and I would be delighted to hear your views.

I’ve been in post as Chief Executive since 1st July and I’m very mindful that one of my first communications with staff was around the organisational restructure, setting out how I’d like to organise work.  As I’ve said before, whilst structures, strategies and systems are all important, we will only be successful if we all feel positive and engaged.  It’s vitally important therefore for me to understand your experience of working for Aberdeen City Council and whether that experience would lead you to promote the Council as an employer.

I also recognise that in addition to being a member of staff many of us will be customers of the Council and I’m equally interested in getting your views on experiencing the Council as a customer.

The Employee Opinion Survey is entirely confidential, no-one’s responses will be singled out in the analysis of the results.  To ensure this, we are working with an accredited external research organisation, BMG, who will collate and analyse the results.  No contact details will be collected and the findings within the final results and report will be anonymous.

Alongside the main survey you will also find a short additional questionnaire covering diversity and equality issues within the Council.  As with the main survey, participation is optional and your response will be treated in strictest confidence.  The results will be used to help us assess what we are doing well in relation to diversity and equality in employment and what we could do better, helping ensure that all employees are treated equally in accordance with our responsibilities under the Equality Act.

Your input will help to identify what’s working and what’s not.  All staff will receive the results from the survey in early 2015 and it’s important that we all reflect on what the results tell us about our organisation and then consider what we could do differently to improve everyone’s experience of working for Aberdeen City Council.

I do hope that you will take the opportunity to share your views and experiences.  The Survey will be open for responses until Friday 12th December

Information on the Survey will appear on the Zone.  Colleagues without on-line access will receive hard-copy survey packs.


Shaping Aberdeen – Awards for Planning

Excellent news for the Council yesterday from the Scottish Government’s Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning 2014.

Awards were won in the Community Engagement category for the Council’s work in engaging young people in the Local Development Plan and in the Development Plan category for the Strategic Infrastructure Plan.  In addition, the Council’s SURF project was also shortlisted in the Community Engagement category.

Congratulations to Maggie Bochel, her team and everyone else involved in achieving such success.