International Workers Memorial Day 2017

Everyone should be aware of the importance attached to health, safety and wellbeing across the Council.  It’s a standing item on the agenda for my meetings with the Trades Union representatives and renewed focus will be given this year to all our efforts in this regard as actions in relation to it will feature in each of the service improvement plans currently in development.

International Workers Memorial Day is marked across the globe on 28th April each year.  It aims to ensure that those who have died, been injured, or made ill by their work are not forgotten and in addition it’s about ensuring that this tragic loss and suffering are used to reinvigorate the campaign for healthier and safer work.

For the Council this year, teh following events will be taking place

  • Kittybrewster – 8.00 am – a toolbox talk will take place in the canteen on the importance of health and safety with presentations given by John Quinn, Head of Service for Land and Property Assets and a Trades Union representative
  • Duthie Park – 9.30 am at The Mound – a flag lowering and wreath laying ceremony with representatives from the Council and the Trades Unions who represent Council employees.
  • All Aberdeen City Council buildings – 11.00 am – a one minute silence will be observed.
  • Persley Walled Garden, Bridge of Don- Gathering at 12.30 pm for a Service at 1.00 pm – ATUC delegates and friends are invited to the annual Workers’ Memorial Service.

Step Up, Step Out

There’s a final call today (Wednesday 26th April) for entrants for this year’s Step Challenge!

A Council-wide event hosted by Corporate Governance and the Office of Chief Executive, the Step Challenge begins on the Bank Holiday Monday, 1st May and steps all the way to Sunday 4th June.

This period covers a range of running and walking events across Aberdeen; including the Baker Hughes 10k, Hazlehead Park: Colour Me Rad 5k & on the final day of this event the Aberdeen Kiltwalk takes place.

Last year the challenge saw 168 Steppers raise over £680 for charity (split between Kayleigh’s Wee Stars & Charlie House)

There’s a £5 donation from everyone that signs up and the winning team, both the team with the most steps overall & also most improved will split the total prize pot and be able to donate the whole amount to a charity of their choice.

For more information and to sign up find the link on the Zone, the deadline for signing up is 5.00 pm on Wednesday 26th April with teams to be announced on 27th April.

I’m one of the 144 who have signed up so far, join me.


Kingsmead Nursing Home

Huge thanks are in order to all the teams across the Council, NHS Grampian and Bon Accord Care for the massive collective effort put in so swiftly to enable us to take control of operations at Kingsmead Nursing Home following the announcement by the Care Inspectorate that it intended to remove its registration.  I visited the home on Friday and it was great to see the teams all working together and the residents all very settled.  Well done everyone and a big personal thanks from me to each colleague involved for going above and beyond.

Events at Kingsmead are another example of what we and our partners are capable of when called upon to respond to a crisis.  In such situations once routine has been established but before the “emergency” begins to fade in the memory, it is well worthwhile to put a spotlight on what we have we done to ensure we have a good outcome, in order to see if there is something to be captured which we can draw on for business as usual.  We’ve had a few situations to deal with recently and for me a few recurring themes  resonate with the cornerstones of the Shaping Aberdeen agenda:

  • Purpose – the outcome is always at the centre of everything in these situations, and in most cases that outcome is about keeping people safe from harm; everyone involved stays focused on this throughout
  • How we behave – in these situations there is a real sense of Team Aberdeen; no silo positions being struck; no seeking permissions to behave as a team or to support the team; everyone caring for each other’s wellbeing throughout, as well as for the wellbeing of our customers; visible senior leadership direction and presence; and in this case a real sense of partnership working across the Council and with NHS Grampian and Bon Accord Care
  • How we do our business – we seem to be able to free ourselves from the organisational processes which often threaten to drown us in normal day-to-day working, allowing us to be fleeter of foot

So how do we bottle this stuff and make use of it day-to-day?  Some of its already present in the organisation, but we’ve more to do I think:

  • Outcomes – the outcomes which the Community Planning Partnership signed up to are now reflected in the Council’s Strategic Plan and Directorates are working on incorporating these into directorate and service plans.  Over and above this though, we need to think about how we make the outcomes present in our everyday work lives.  For example, how have the outcomes been reflected in your objectives for 17/18?  How well do managers cover the outcomes with new colleagues joining a team?
  • How we behave – the staff survey picks up four main issues for the organisation; vision, visibility of senior managers, appreciation and recognition and trust.  In these crisis situations, senior managers are clearly visible and their presence appears to be welcomed.  How do we achieve increased visibility for senior managers outwith these situations without staff feeling invaded? I’ve really appreciated the Lord Provost recognising and celebrating staff efforts over the last couple of years in relation to specific incidents and again staff, managers and trade unions appear to have appreciated this too.  So what do we need to do to increase the organisation’s regular use of the “back pat” on the Ideas Hub as an everyday way to recognise a job well done?
  • How we do our business – the corporate change programme “Operational Excellence” will be removing many of the institutional processes we’ve locked ourselves into and will release our time to care for the city and its people more.

Our emergency planning responses have certainly been tested over the last six months or so, and it remains important that we continue to be ready to respond in such circumstances.  The people we serve depend on us to do no less.  But we also need to be aware of how we work day-to-day and find ways to ensure that the spirit and the focus that we summon for an emergency is captured and applied during our normal working week.

More awards roll in …

Congratulations are once again in order for Steve Whyte and the Council’s Finance Team.

At last night’s Public Finance Innovation Awards in London the team triumphed in both the Finance Team of the Year and the Innovation in Treasury and Asset Management Awards.  The Team was also shortlisted in the Finance Training and Development Initiative category.

Brilliant news, well done to everyone involved.


I took the opportunity recently to make a visit the David Welch Winter Gardens following a kind invitation made to me by a colleague at a Corporate Induction session.  As you can see below Spring was certainly in the air and I can recommend a visit to the park over the coming Easter weekend.  I also took the opportunity while I was there to visit the Duthie Park Ranger Service and found out more about the activity programmes they run.

Of course the coming weekend also sees Nuart Aberdeen at site across the City Centre.  So whether you want to visit one of our parks, view the new street art that’s been made in the City, or indeed do both I’m sure you’ll join with me in hoping for decent, dry days.

City Lab

I had a fascinating time the other week at Tempo in the Bon Accord Centre when I attended the final presentations of the projects developed through the latest City Lab programme run as a collaboration between the City Council, the University of Aberdeen and the Robert Gordon University.

Street tiles which generate electricity, a high-tech school bus which teaches STEM subjects in the community, a media database which captures stories from Aberdeen and interactive signage to signpost people around the city were just some of the ideas put forward at the event to help make Aberdeen a smarter city.

Students from the two Universities presented ideas for projects that would use technology to bring solutions to city-wide challenges as part of the programme.

The initiative, which is unique in Scotland offers a 10 week programme where students design solutions to solve social and economic challenges for the city of Aberdeen.  Potential investors from all sectors in Aberdeen then choose the most viable option to develop and implement.  This is the second year the programme has run.

The successful project selected by the stakeholders present was Event Horizon, which aims to address the shortage of skills in STEM-related careers (STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  The project is an outreach programme which would see a bus kitted out with the most advanced technology bring interactive learning and development to primary school children and their families in regeneration areas of the city.

The approach is to drive awareness of the opportunities through STEM subjects by using virtual and augmented reality to offer an immersive, alternative classroom experience.  Services offered by the digital bus would also include the use of digital printing to design challenges for pupils and to develop accessible and interactive coding workshops where school children can develop their own ideas and solutions.

The next phase for the Event Horizon project is to further develop a business case for the project and to then attract investment from multiple stakeholders in Aberdeen to make the idea a reality.

Work will also continue to find to find sponsors for all the ideas presented at the CityLab event.

One idea put forward was Next Step Energy which would introduce tiling on Aberdeen streets that would generate electricity when people walk to encourage growth as a renewable energy city.

Tales of the Silver City was an idea to feature stories from people in Aberdeen from all walks of life, talking about the place of Aberdeen and their memories on digital platforms in a bid to enhance our cultural identity and create a sense of place.

The Ad-vent Hub was a pitch to develop interactive signage for the city of Aberdeen to signpost people around the city and offer advertising and information platforms to business to help promote events to residents and tourists.

What I find most exciting about the City Lab initiative is the way it brings together partners to jointly identify issues and then co-create solutions to tackle them.  I’m really looking forward not only to seeing how this year’s projects develop but also to seeing a new cohort of students from both Universities tackling future issues.

Last year’s successful CityLab project has led to the Tuk-In project (check it out on twitter @TukInCFine ) – a mobile cafe, an electric Tuk Tuk kitted out as a food vendor, which will use in date food that would have otherwise been sent to landfill to create delicious, healthy, low-cost meals prepared by volunteers in CFine’s community kitchen.  The meals will then go out to areas of high food poverty and food insecurity, this will be backed up by selling food to business’s around Aberdeen with the profit raised being put back into the charity to support the community side.  The project is currently crowdfunding, take a look.