Shaping Aberdeen – shaping the team

A full week of recruitment and selection this week with assessment centres and interviews for the posts of Head of Legal & Democratic Services and Head of IT & Transformation.

Some disappointment at the end of last week as it was decided not to make an appointment to the post of Director of Corporate Governance.  I completely understand and support the Appointment Panel’s decision and I am now working with colleagues to establish interim arrangements ahead of beginning a fresh recruitment exercise.

I will of course provide further updates.

City Region Deal

I am delighted to be able to follow-up my post of 9th March with the news that the Chancellor has today announced in his Budget Speech that formal negotiations will begin on the City Region Deal for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

I must take the opportunity to put on record my appreciation of all those from both Councils and our partners who have put in so much effort to get us to this position.  Of course, the hard work now begins.

I am very much looking forward to joining Jim Savege in working with our colleagues in the City and Shire, in the public and private sectors and in the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that the negotiations are successfully concluded for the people we serve across the North East.

Shaping Aberdeen – City Centre Masterplan

The weekend just passed has seen the launch of the public consultation on the City Centre Masterplan proposals. A big thank you to all members of staff who have assisted with the events that have been held so far.

The exhibition and consultation brochure is available here and the questionnaire is available here

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’m particularly interested in staff views on the proposals and how the Council will go about delivering the Masterplan once it has been finalised and agreed.  A staff-specific questionnaire will appear on The Zone soon. 

In the meantime, please encourage friends and family to have their say through the survey on the website.

2015 General Election

Eight weeks today we’ll have awoken to the results of the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election.  Personally, I’m hopeful that I’ll have had at least a few hours sleep having declared the results for the Aberdeen North and Aberdeen South polls at some point in the early hours of Friday 8th May.

In my dual role as Chief Executive and Returning Officer I’ve today provided a guidance document to the Extended Corporate Management Team on how we should handle the pre-election period which begins at the Dissolution of Parliament on Monday 30th March.  I’ve asked that the advice be shared with all appropriate officers and I’ve also copied it to all elected members for their information. 

The document runs to 16 pages but the key points we should all bear in mind are:

  • Council staff must by law act in a politically neutral way at all times.
  • There is particular sensitivity around this political neutrality in the run-up to an election.
  • Particular care needs to be taken to ensure that any events, publicity or other communications are politically neutral during a pre-election period. 
  • Council facilities and resources must not be used in support of a political party or election candidate.
  • Unless otherwise stated, it should be assumed that normal Council business will continue; and
  • Unless otherwise covered by the guidance or in the view of a particular Service in relation to a particular query, staff will most likely respond positively to requests for information or advice from parties or candidates.

Colleagues in the Office of Chief Executive are available to assist with any particular queries you may have –


The City Centre Masterplan Team needs you!

Following my earlier post today about the City Centre Masterplan, Aberdeen City Council will be supporting the next phase of consultation and are looking for staff from within the organisation who are interested in engaging with residents, businesses and local agencies about this exciting project.

This initiative will be looking 25 years ahead for the city centre, so we want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to engage in the process that will shape the heart of Aberdeen in the future.

We are looking for volunteers to give up a few hours of their time between the 18 – 29 March 2015, to support us at a number of engagement activities that will be held across Aberdeen to raise awareness of the City Centre Masterplan and to encourage as many family members, friends and colleagues to participate in this public engagement exercise.

If you are interested in supporting this activity, please contact Dawn Schultz, City Promotions Manager on 01224 522767 or email

Shaping Aberdeen – City Centre Masterplan

Following last week’s Council decision to move ahead with the new AECC and with the Aberdeen City Region Deal being considered by Council later this week, I now write about another major, long-term strategic initiative which is about to enter the final phase of consultation before going to Council in May.

As you will know from previous blogs, over the past year the City Centre Masterplan team have been working with individual members of the public, groups, partners and stakeholders gathering feedback on how we can best support the development of the City Centre for the benefit of those who live and work in Aberdeen as well as those who visit.

I now write to invite you to take the opportunity to share your views on proposals for the City Centre which could help deliver an additional 11,000 jobs and add £290 million to the city’s annual income.  Feedback is sought between the 12th and 29th of March.

The projects include:

  • Queen’s Square: The transformation of the Queen Street area into a new mixed-use urban quarter;
  • Castlegate/Castlehill: A vibrant public square reinvigorating Castlegate/Castlehill;
  • Denburn Valley: The reawakening of the Denburn Valley as the setting for a new generation of city living;
  • Heart of the City: Union Street gets the space it deserves through pedestrianisation of part of Aberdeen’s historic main street;
  • Union Street West: A contemporary business/retail/leisure feel to the west end of Union Street and the renovation of Golden Square and Bon Accord Square as accessible green spaces;
  • Station Gateway: A much enhanced gateway and better pedestrian routes to and from the railway station radically improving first impressions of Aberdeen;
  • South Dee: A new pedestrian bridge across the Dee to link to a new residential community at South Dee and enhanced riverside promenade;
  • North Dee: A significant new office and business quarter at North Dee.

More information is available on the City Centre Masterplan website pages.

The delivery of the Masterplan will be a major undertaking involving many of the Council’s Services and Teams over a period of many years. I am very keen to hear your views on this as a member of staff about what we need as a Council to make this happen, in particular relating to:

  1. Technical restrictions on delivery
  2. Capability to deliver
  3. Capacity to deliver

Give me your own thoughts and/or discuss with your colleagues and give me a team response, by sending a message to Louise MacSween –

As I said in my blog last week, I will be referring to the responses I receive from Council colleagues in my report to Council in May.

You may of course also wish to share your views on the proposals as a member of the public and the best way to do this will be through the upcoming programme of consultation events where the multi-million pound proposals will be showcased in and around Aberdeen from 14th to 29th March.

Further information will be available through e-mail, on the Zone and in further posts on this blog.  I urge you to take the chance to get involved.

City Region Deal

I was delighted to join the Council Leader and our Aberdeenshire Council colleagues, Councillor Jim Gifford and Jim Savege at Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce this lunchtime for the launch of the Aberdeen City Region Deal.

The Deal proposes a development programme costed at approximately £2.9billion which will see funding for infrastructure in the area over the next 20 years supported by an economic strategy focusing on internationalisation, innovation and skills.  Elected members from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils will consider the Deal at their meetings on Thursday 12th March when both Councils will be asked to authorise officers to continue work on developing the detailed proposals and to continue to engage with the Scottish and the UK Governments.

The City Region Deal document is available here –

Shaping Aberdeen – moving forward

As I end the week in further meetings with colleagues from Aberdeenshire Council on the drafting of the City Region Deal which we will be jointly taking to both UK and Scottish Governments, I thought it would be useful to pause and reflect on a busy few days which have seen two Council meetings, a State Visit and the latest in the series of CityTalks which have been run as part of the development of the City Centre Masterplan.  All have seen progress in Shaping Aberdeen.

Yesterday’s visit to the Town House by the President of the United Mexican States, President Enrique Peña Nieto as part of his State Visit to the United Kingdom as the guest of Her Majesty The Queen saw the President attend a presentation and signing of Memoranda of Understanding on collaboration in the energy sector, with representatives of the UK and Scottish Governments and senior representatives from the UK Oil and Gas Sector.  The event was superbly organised by a team of Council colleagues from many services led by David Gow, Civic Team Manager.  I was proud to be involved and struck once again by the global reach of our City and the international stage on which we in the Council play such an important role on behalf of the people who live and work here.

Yesterday evening saw Rollin Stanley deliver the latest in our series of CityTalk events.  An internationally renowned city-planner, Rollin spoke on the ways in which Calgary has been developed and changed for the better over the years.  Also featuring similar events which focussed on Gothenburg and Manchester the CityTalks have been one of the range of ways public engagement with the City Masterplanning process has been stimulated.  Further consultation activities are planned for later this month and I will be formally seeking the views of Council staff on the draft Masterplan with the intention of using the feedback I receive to inform my report to Council in May on the Masterplan and its delivery.  Further information on this will be on the Zone soon.

Wednesday’s Council meeting saw a number of major matters discussed with important decisions being taken.

Elected members heard the results of the Care Inspectorate’s Joint Inspection of Services for Children and Young People in the City and I am pleased to add my congratulations to all involved from the Council and our partner organisations for such an encouraging report recognising the significant improvement in services and partnership working that has taken place in Aberdeen City over the last few years.  Of course work remains to be done and there is always room for improvement, but everyone has a right to be proud that their efforts have justifiably been recognised.

The Council meeting also saw an important milestone reached with the members approving the draft Health and Social Care Integration Scheme for the City which we and our partners in NHS Grampian will now submit to the Scottish Government.  Another report to Council that marked the culmination of many months of detailed work by Council and partner staff.

A third major decision at Wednesday’s meeting saw the Council unanimously agree the proposal to support the new AECC development which will include a conference centre, energy centre and two hotels.  The £333 million costs of the development are offset by a number of income streams and significant savings are made in comparison to the Council’s current financial support to the existing AECC.  The new development will be built on the site of the Rowett Institute in Dyce and a residential-led mixed-use scheme is proposed for the existing AECC site in Bridge of Don.  Tribute must be paid to Andrew Win and those who worked with him over many months bringing together the scheme presented to Council this week.

The week has also seen Thursday’s Special Council Meeting confirm the decision to progress the Marischal Square development and Wednesday’s Council Meeting agree that the Council will leave COSLA at the end of the month, more on this latter decision in a future blog.

Last, but by no means least, Monday this week saw the deadline pass for applications to the posts of Director of Corporate Governance, Head of Legal & Democratic Services and Head of IT and Transformation.  Assessment Centres and Interviews are timetabled for later this month and by the end of March the Council’s Extended Corporate Management Team will be complete.  Subject to notice arrangements, I hope that everyone will be in post by before the summer break.

A busy week, enjoy your weekend.  Back on Monday for more!