Aberdeen City Region Deal

As you may have noticed through media reports, online and from the social media traffic today has seen a major step forward on the Aberdeen City Region Deal with the signing at the Town House of a document that commits the UK and the Scottish Governments to a joint (50/50) investment of £250 million in the delivery of Deal proposals over the next 10 years.

You can read the document here

I don’t want to use this blog post to repeat what you will no doubt see in the media over the coming days, what I do want to do is pay tribute to all the officers of this Council and Aberdeenshire Council, all the officials of the UK and Scottish Governments and all those who work for our partners for the work that they have done over the past year to bring the Deal to the point we reached today.  It turned out to be a long slog for many weeks and months followed by a high intensity burst of activity over a few very long days and I am immensely proud of the team and what has been achieved.

I must in particular mention by name both Richard Sweetnam, our Head of Economic Development and Belinda Miller, Head of Economic Development at Aberdeenshire Council for their tireless efforts in marshalling all the information and the supporting data necessary to convince the Governments of the merits of our case.  Their work was rightly recognised publicly by Sir Ian Wood at this afternoon’s event.

Today of course is just a beginning, there is a great deal of work to be done not only in relation to the City Region Deal but also following the other announcements made today by both the Scottish and the UK Government.  The team has shown that it will be more than a match for the challenges ahead.

Safety and security

You will be able to read elsewhere on the Zone about the improvement works taking place over the next six weekends to increase security at the staff entrances to Marischal College on Queen Street and Littlejohn Street.  Arrangements at the Town House are also under review.

However, it bears repeating that whatever the building you work in it is vitally important to maintain its security and we all have a role to play in this.  Given the absence of physical security on some of the entrances to our premises, your vigilance when entering, working in or leaving a building is crucial.  We can all do our bit by following a few simple steps:

  • when entering or exiting any building, ensure that security doors are firmly closed and secured behind you;
  • do not allow anyone to “tailgate” behind you into a building which has security doors controlled by either ID Badge or fob;
  • in buildings which do not have security doors, anyone not displaying a valid ACC ID Badge and attempting to enter our buildings, should be directed to the building reception, where if they have a valid reason for accessing the building, they can sign in as a visitor;
  • politely challenge anyone not displaying a valid ACC ID badge, regardless of who they are. This includes staff who may have forgotten their ID Badge. They too should be directed to reception where they can be issued with a Temporary Staff ID Badge;
  • if you witness suspicious behaviour in or around any of our buildings, immediately inform your line manager or in an emergency, call 999;
  • look out for suspicious packages and if you discover anything of concern, immediately inform your line manager or in an emergency, call 999.

Out and about …

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A huge thank you to (from left to right) Mark, Davie and Keith for hosting my fascinating trip on one of the Council’s waste collection vehicles last week.

It was a tremendous insight into the work our crews do across the City and I for one now know just how important it is for all of us to ensure that we separate our domestic waste into the different bins, crates and bags the crews collect from our homes.  It was also a real eye-opener for me to see how attentive the crews need to be given the impatience of other road users to get by the wagon while they go about their collections.

The Council continues to invest in the waste fleet providing Mark, Davie and Keith and their colleagues with the tools they need to do their jobs.  I’m looking forward to a return visit once the new kit has been rolled out.

In the meantime, this week I’m off to meet some of the Council’s libraries team.

A smile on your face and a song in your heart …

Interested in joining a work choir?

The search is on for individuals who would be up for committing a few hours per week to sing.

The idea is that the Council’s choir will perform a couple of songs at a charity concert on 15th May.  The concert is for a local social care charity, VSA who pride themselves on bringing together other local charities to ensure that the people in Aberdeen are provided with the best of care.

We can support the charity by getting our friends and families along to the concert on the 15th.  In return, while VSA can’t quite promise us Gareth Malone, they do have the support of some local music legends who will join the rehearsals and mentor the choir.

Our mentor will likely be free for evening rehearsals, and it’s up to us to choose our song choices.

If you’re interested and want to find out more contact Ella Towns (ejtowns@aberdeencity.gov.uk)  The choir is looking for both male and female voices.

The match is on …

The City’s Rugby League Club Aberdeen Warriors  has been badly affected by the recent weather and contacted me to ask for the Council’s help to find a pitch for a very important match later this month.  The Warriors are the only Scottish team to feature in the first round of the prestigious Ladbrokes Challenge Cup – a competition that will be won at Wembley in August this year.

Having drawn a home match against Northumbria University to be played on Saturday 30th January, the club faced the real prospect of having to forfeit the tie unless a pitch could be found.  A huge thank you therefore to Alistair Robertson and his colleagues at Sport Aberdeen and the team at Rubislaw Playing Fields who have between them arranged for the match to be staged there.

Check the Warriors website for ticket details and head along to Rubislaw to support our local team.

City Centre Masterplan

I am pleased to let you know that following a two-day process of assessment centre and formal interview last week, the Council’s Appointment Panel agreed a preferred candidate for the new role of City Centre Director.

The normal pre-employment checks are currently underway ahead of the appointment being formally finalised, but in the meantime I can confirm that Marc Cole is delighted with the offer of the post.  Marc has both a background in local government and considerable experience of driving regeneration activity in a number of English towns and cities.

The intention is that once all formalities have been completed, Marc will take up post with the Council early next month.

Aberdeen City Region Deal

Many of you will already have heard of the Aberdeen City Region Deal.  However, as we reached a major milestone at the end of last year with detailed proposals being submitted to UK and Scottish Government, I thought it would be good to give you a quick rundown of where we are and how a successful City Deal will benefit not only Aberdeen, but the UK as a whole.

But firstly, what is a City Deal?

The UK Government has agreed City Deals with a number of major city regions outside London.  Each agreement is different, and is negotiated on an individual basis to reflect the needs of the area.  A City Deal allows local areas to unlock financial support and powers from national government, giving local bodies’ greater control over spending and decision-making to boost economic growth.

So what does this mean for Aberdeen and the wider region?

Colleagues here in the Council, along with a team from Aberdeenshire Council, have been working with the two governments, other agencies and the private sector to secure a deal which could result in significant capital investment in the North East.

The City Region Deal is the starting point of a long-term improvement programme which will have far-reaching impacts.  It will allow us to improve transport links, infrastructure and housing and boost investment in innovation and research and development.

The success of oil and gas has allowed us to achieve great things over several decades.  The City Region Deal will let us build upon the existing strengths of this area, which already contributes substantially to UK PLC, and also allow us to continue to diversify our economy into other areas including Food, Drink & Agriculture; Life Sciences and Tourism.

If we are successful in securing the City Region Deal, it is important to note that there is not a large pot of money that would instantly be made available.  The process requires local and national government to work together, along with the private sector, academia and the wider public to develop the proposals and implement them.

It is a process of negotiation.  Elements of long-term projects will be subject to change to enable them to adapt to a changing financial and political environment.

If you would like to keep updated about the City Region Deal please sign up to the weekly newsletter via www.abzdeal.com or join the discussion on twitter using #ABZdeal

Dee and Don Flooding

We’re all aware that as the Council’s efforts to address the flooding issues faced by the City last week progress from Response to Recovery it may be many days, if not weeks before we can safely say that the incidents that began to unfold last Thursday are finally over.  I understand this and thank those colleagues who continue to work to ensure a return to normality in the affected areas.  I also appreciate that for those individuals and families who have had property damaged and in many cases lost valued possessions recovery will be a much longer process, the Council will play a role in thin is whatever way we can.

However, I wanted to mark the start of the new working week by paying tribute to all those involved to date in what proved to be a very challenging set of circumstances.  It’s the nature of my job that, at least in the initial stages of such events, I spend my time “back at base” with key directors, heads of service and service managers.  I am extremely grateful to all those senior managers involved in coordinating with me the Council’s response.  But they like me are only too well aware that the delivery of the response, the service received by the people of Aberdeen from their Council at such a difficult time, relied entirely on the efforts of many dedicated colleagues from throughout the Council who worked across the City for many, many hours.  I pay tribute to each and every one of them and I am incredibly proud to lead the organisation of which they are part.

I think we all recognise that the scale of the flooding impact felt in Aberdeenshire is of a different magnitude to that felt in the City, notwithstanding the fact that those affected here have still suffered losses and disruption.  I am sure I can count on your support in offering any assistance needed to our colleagues at Aberdeenshire Council.  We stand ready to help if required.

I am certain that they all share with me and with the ECMT the desire to ensure that we always do the very best that we can for the people of Aberdeen and as a result we will together learn lessons, both within the Council and across the partnership of agencies which jointly responded to the incident, to ensure that the next we face such a challenge we do even better for those we serve.

In the meantime, a heartfelt thank you to all for everything that has been to tackle what the weather threw at us last week.