So farewell 2016 …

Today sees the final CMT meeting of the year and tomorrow sees the start of the holidays for the vast majority of us, so it seems like an opportune moment to reflect on the year just passing and the work to be done when we’re all back in the new year.

Looking back through my blogs over the past 12 months it’s pleasing to remember some of the headline-making successes of the year – the signing of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, the launch of the integrated health and social care service, the achievement of a credit rating and the issuing of our bond, for example – alongside so many individual and team successes at awards ceremonies the length and breadth of the UK.  More to come in 2017 I’m sure.

Of course, it’s also impossible to allow the year to pass without pausing to reflect on the recommendations made to the Council in the reports we received this year in relation both to the death of Bailey Gwynne and to the past practices at Aberdeen Crematorium.  I know that colleagues across the Council are committed to ensuring that lessons are learned and improvements made, work will continue to ensure that this is the case.

Over and above those aspects of the Council’s work that take place in the glare of publicity, it’s also only right and proper to once again remind ourselves of the many tens of thousands of interactions there are between Council staff and the individuals, families and communities we serve across the city, each and every day of the year.  We provide vital services touching many if not all aspects of life in the City and we have every right to be proud of what we achieve. It’s also appropriate to pay tribute once again to those of us who will be ensuring that many of these services continue to be delivered as the rest of us and the rest of the City enjoy the festive break.

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that a key early priority for the new year for the management team and many across all the services will be the production of options to be placed before the elected members to allow the Council to set a balanced budget for 2017/2018.  This is never an easy task and difficult decisions will no doubt need to be made.  At the same time, we’re due the publication of the results of the latest Employee Opinion Survey before the end of January and we’ll all need to reflect on what they tell us about what it’s like to work in the Council.  These results, the decisions made on the budget, the priorities set out in the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan and other key Council strategy documents along with legislative changes will inform our revised service and team plans for the year – it’s the mix of all these elements that we must try to balance to achieve our improvement goals in relation to staff experience, customer experience and the use of resources.

There’s plenty to be getting going on with when we’re back in January and did I mention the elections in May?

So if you’re having a break, enjoy your time away from work.  If you’re working over the next two weeks, thank you.

Awards

A quick note of congratulations to two of our apprentices who have made it through to the final stages of the APSE Scottish Apprentice of the Year Awards 2016.

Apprentice Electrician Graeme Baird who works at Northfield Depot and Apprentice Plumber David Hutcheon who works out of Central Depot will both represent the Council at the awards event which takes place at the Dunblane Hydro Hotel in February 2017.  Graeme is in the final of the 3rd Year Category and David in the 2nd Year Category.

All the best to both of them.  Bring home the silverware!

Eyes and ears in the City Centre

I’m guessing that it won’t have escaped your notice and I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the City Centre is currently even more busy than usual just at the moment.

I was delighted to have the opportunity recently to join City Wardens Martin Quinn and Reid Wyllie on their rounds in the heart of Aberdeen. I was struck by how important the role is that they and their colleagues play on behalf of the Council.

Yes, of course on occasion the City Wardens have to issue penalties and of course this key aspect of their work doesn’t necessarily meet universal approval at all times.  But just as key is the work that they do in being visible representatives of the Council and all its services, the wardens are key to our communication on the streets with the people we serve.

It was a real privilege to spend some time with Martin and Reid as they went about their work.

Never underestimate the power of a volunteer

I recently found out that 1 in 3 members of the Council’s staff volunteer their time to a cause or a charity they share a personal connection with.  That’s a considerable force within our city with a strong desire to make a difference.  Volunteering has been important to me since my student days and while my current job takes up so much of my time that it can be tricky to find any spare to volunteer I continue to do what I can.  I fully appreciate that we all have busy lives with both work and family commitments, but I will always encourage and support colleagues to seek out personal and professional volunteer opportunities that stretch them in areas that they would not normally venture into.

Volunteering often offers opportunities to discover new, alternative solutions to some of the daily challenges we face giving a fresh perspective and new means by which to achieve our goals.  Volunteering encourages collaboration and idea-sharing.  I’m very keen to work with staff across the Council to enhance the value we place on volunteering and to embed it as a means of strengthening the core values of the Council.

As a Council, we must always work hard to earn and protect our role as a trusted partner in the community we serve.  The Council’s core values reinforce the values instilled in us at an early age and guide us away from a narrow focus on personal gain, and to a concern with the well-being of the people with whom we work.  This work takes dogged perseverance and a willingness to go the extra mile in order to make a lasting difference to people’s lives.  As with the Council, so with volunteering – find a cause you care about and connect yourself to it.  Go where others won’t go.  Donate to charities and volunteer your time no matter how little you can afford to give of either and get connected to something bigger than yourself.  Volunteering will give you access to the very people who have been waiting for you to show up and do what no one else but you can do.  Your time and support will never be wasted.

Meantime, you’ll remember I wrote in a previous blog about Megan McKinnon at our West Tullos Road Depot who spoke up for those who suffer in silence because they may not know how to talk about what they’re going through, or who they can turn to for help.  She believes that as an organisation, we can help to improve the quality of life for people affected by Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), both patients and their families.  For Megan and others like her, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are often viewed as ‘invisible illnesses’.

Crohn’s and Colitis UK was set up to help find a cure for people who have Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis and aims to be an equal partnership of patients, families and health professionals.  Their mission is to give a voice to everyone affected by those conditions and to see a world in which no one is limited by Crohn’s and Colitis.

As 2016 draws to a close, I invite everyone to support a worthy cause by giving a One Team donation to Crohn’s & Colitis UK.  Find the link on the Zone and ensure you make your donation by January 13th, 2017.

Winter Preparations

As I write this (and without wishing to tempt fate) the weather is damp and relatively mild.

Obviously we can make no assumption that it will stay that way and I wanted to take the opportunity to put on record my gratitude to all those colleagues across the Council who are making all the necessary arrangements to ensure that if bad weather hits the City doesn’t grind to a halt and the most vulnerable are looked after.

Particular thanks go to those who will be working over the festive period to ensure services continue to be delivered to those who need them.

Thank You

A short note to say a big thank you to everyone who took the opportunity to share their views on working with the Council in the recently closed Employee Opinion Survey.  Our independent contractor BMG will now analyse the results and I look forward to receiving and sharing their report early in the New Year.

As ever, the most important aspect of a survey such as this will be the resulting actions that we all commit to in light of what the outcomes tell us.  In order that they are truly meaningful, I’m committed to ensuring that these actions, whatever they turn out to be, will be developed and delivered jointly within and across services.

Giving as one

Many will remember that in 2014 Council staff raised an amazing £9,340.00 to support the ARCHIE Foundation and Whale and Dolphin Conservation, at the same time becoming the proud owners of Lottie the Dolphin.

This year, instead of giving Christmas cards to colleagues, staff participated in our Christmas Charity Challenge by volunteering to give a One Team donation to a worthy cause.  They were also asked to nominate a charity of their choice to receive that donation.  More than 20 charitable organisations were nominated, helping to put the spotlight on the fantastic work these organisations continue to do to support the people and communities that depend on their services.

On December 1st, it was announced that Crohn’s and Colitis UK are this year’s Christmas Charity of Choice as voted for by staff to receive our One Team donation.

In her own words team member, Megan McKinnon at our West Tullos Road Depot, spoke up for those who suffer in silence because they may not know how to talk about what they’re going through, or who they can turn to for help.  She believes that as an organisation, we can help to improve the quality of life for people affected by Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), both patients and their families – and her peers voted that we take a closer look at this charity as the recipient of our giving.  For Megan and others like her, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are often viewed as ‘invisible illnesses’ and the contribution we can make will help improve the quality of life for people affected by Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Coincidentally, Crohn’s and Colitis UK launched their Awareness Week on December 1st which provided an excellent way for our staff to join workplaces, schools, clubs and individuals across the UK in supporting Purple Friday on December 2nd and wear purple.  The response was amazing!

Over the 2016 Christmas season and into the New Year, you can help support our One Team donation to Crohn’s & Colitis UK, by going onto the Zone and making a donation by January 13, 2017.