Every best wish to you, your family and friends for Christmas and Happy New Year.
Surely none of us can be left unmoved by the truly heartbreaking events on Queen Street, Glasgow yesterday. I’ve no doubt that our thoughts are with the families and friends of those killed or injured and I’m sure we are all once again full of admiration for the professionalism of the emergency services in such difficult circumstances. I think we probably also all recognise the impact this tragedy will have on our colleagues at Glasgow City Council.
Coming as it does so close to Christmas, the shock of the event resonates even more strongly and powerfully reminds us of the fragility of life and the preciousness of family. It also brings to mind the importance of the work we and our partners undertake at this time of year with those struggling with loss or in some other way vulnerable and in need of our support.
As we move towards the New Year, thoughts are beginning to turn to the diary for 2015. One of the commitments I’ve asked my office to make for me is to ensure that I have time each month to make visits to colleagues at their places of work across the City as well as around Marischal College and the Town House.
Most recently I have followed up a visit I made to the staff at Duthie Park with one to colleagues working at Hazlehead Park. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet the teams working on planting schemes at the park and those undertaking tree works there. It was encouraging to hear of the plans there are for the park, the tremendous partnership working underway with the Friends of Hazlehead Park group and the exciting links being made with the local schools and others. I’m looking forward to visiting again to hear about progress, although I might try for a summer’s day rather than one in deepest December.
In the meantime I’ve accepted an invitation from Steven Shaw to visit Seaton Park early in the New Year to find out more about what he and his teams are doing there.
If you and your colleagues would like to invite me to visit you where you work, have a word with your manager and drop my office a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notwithstanding the small matter of today’s Council meeting, there’s now a real feel of Christmas around.
Yesterday evening I was delighted to attend the Danestone Primary School pantomime. The cuddly goose’s adventures are sure to live long in the memory – you had to be there! The production was clearly a huge effort by all the pupils and staff involved and it was great to join an audience full of proud parents and family. Many congratulations to George Roberts and his team at Danestone.
There’ll be similar Christmas events going on in our schools across the City as we move towards the end of term on Friday, well done to all those on stage and a big thank you to everyone involved in making sure the show goes on.
I’m pleased to report that yesterday’s Finance, Policy and Resources Committee agreed the proposal that Steve Whyte, the Council’s Head of Finance is also to become the senior finance officer for Shetland Islands Council.
He will be jointly employed by the two councils and will provide financial oversight and leadership to both. The arrangement provides a tremendous opportunity to both the City Council and Shetland Islands Council to enhance our existing working relationship and to ensure a two-way sharing of expertise and knowledge.
Shared service arrangements such as this are going to become more and more important within the public sector over the coming years as resources are reduced. The Corporate Management Team is committed to exploring such options wherever and whenever they emerge and taking to elected members those proposals which we think provide the most beneficial impact across our three key touchstones – customer experience, staff experience and our use of resources.
Being open to the potential to share services with others offers really exciting opportunities to innovate and to transform the way we do business.
A gentle reminder that the Employee Opinion Survey is due to close on Friday 12th December. If you’ve not yet taken the opportunity to fill in the questionnaire I would urge you to do so.
As I said on the blog just before the Survey was launched, 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.
Give me your thoughts, when the report is published read the feedback and then work with me and your colleagues to make a difference where change is needed.
As we move towards Christmas and the New Year, it seems a good time to reflect on the progress the City Council has made during 2014 in improving the lives of our looked after children and young people through the implementation of our corporate parenting policy. We aim to ensure that children and young people who are or have been looked after have the same opportunities as their peers who have not. I see this as one of my core roles as Chief Executive and I am keen to ensure that we all work together to achieve more positive outcomes for our looked after children and young people.
This year has seen the introduction of the Champions’ Board and the creation of the Young People’s Participation Group. The latter invites looked after young people to take part in activities and gives them an opportunity to say what matters to them and to raise any issues they are dealing with.
The Champions’ Board gives looked after young people the opportunity to talk directly to decision makers about how best to remove the sometimes complex barriers that can get in the way of improving their lives.
At the same time, the Council is looking to develop and increase work experience and internship opportunities under our family firm policy that supports looked after young people into positive and sustained work destinations. 2014 has seen the introduction of the 12 week work experience programme within the Building Services team at Kittybrewster. You may remember that I blogged about its launch. The first two young people who took part in the programme found the experience invaluable and I’m delighted to say that it has helped them to find jobs. The work experience model will now be used as the foundation for more family firm internship opportunities across the Council.
The year has also seen the launch of Aberdeen Guarantees for all young people in the City aged between 16 and 24 to provide further opportunities in learning, employment or training to help increase positive destinations for them. In addition, a virtual school is being developed so that we can monitor and progress the educational attendance and achievement of looked after young people.
Aberdeen Foyer has also been working closely with some of our looked after young people and held their Foyer YOSCARS 2014 Awards in September. The awards were given for improved attendance at school, attaining qualifications, increased commitment to responsible behaviour in the community, volunteering, arts projects, progressing to college or training and working.
Next year the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will give all those who are aged 16 and in care the right to stay in care to the age of 21 and will extend the support to be available to those in care up to the age of 26.
It has been a tremendous year of progress and this vital work will go on in 2015. We have a shared responsibility across the Council to do all we can to improve the lives of our looked after children and young people and I am confident that together we can make sure they all have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.
The latest phase of the consultation process relating to the development of a new city centre masterplan for Aberdeen reached another milestone at the weekend just gone with over 550 people visiting the two-day exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery to view the progress being made on the proposed vision for the next 25 years. With more than 1,000 people having visited the earlier display in September and the number of online ( http://goo.gl/Jm0XBc ) participants in the process continuing to grow, it is really encouraging to see so many taking the opportunity to involve themselves in shaping Aberdeen’s future.
The views and comments shared during the process will help inform the decisions taken on the project and with the consultation exhibition now at Marischal College until Friday 5th December, I encourage everyone who can to get involved and share their thoughts on how Aberdeen should respond to the employment, housing, sustainability, transport and business challenges and opportunities facing it.
Working with our team of international master planning experts, the aim is to deliver a city centre befitting Europe’s energy capital for this and future generations. We should all share in such an exciting opportunity to drive the process forward and help shape the city for the future.