New website and digital partnership mark positive steps towards the council of the future

The new Aberdeen City Council external website was successfully launched today and I’d urge everyone to take five minutes to familiarise themselves with it.

The cleaner design and more intuitive navigation are the first things that stand out – but there’s also additional functionality and the ability to use the site as the platform for what will be a growing digital presence, giving customers the ability to carry out their business online.

Launch day represents crossing the finish line for the hard working team which has been driving the project behind the scenes, perfecting not only the look and feel as well as the technical detail but also the thousands of pages of content which had to be reviewed and updated before being migrated to the new site. I’d like to thank them for delivering something we can all be proud of.

What it’s important to acknowledge is although we’re across that finish line I mentioned in terms of the site launch, we’re just at the start of the next leg of the journey. The website will continue to evolve and develop, particularly in terms of functionality – so there’s no suggestion this is the finished article, but a fantastic foundation to build from.

It has been an important week for the Council, with the site launch following on from the conclusion on Monday of the process to appointment a digital partner to support our ambitions for the future.

North-east company Incremental and international specialists PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) will begin to work with all of us as we continue to improve services for our customers.

This digital partnership is important to Aberdeen residents and businesses, our public sector partners and, of course, staff.

Click through to the Transformation Zone to find out more about the digital partnership, with more information to follow over the coming days and weeks.

A very special weekend for the city

The days ahead will be a great celebration as Denis Law receives the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen.

As a sporting star recognised across the world and true ambassador for the many charitable causes he supports, Denis is deserving of the highest honour which the city can bestow upon him.

It will be an honour to be part of the conferral ceremony on Saturday and Sunday’s parade will bring Aberdeen together to celebrate. I’m sure there will be lots of familiar faces from our own staff out to join in.

Before we embark on a hectic weekend, my thanks go to the many people within Aberdeen City Council who have worked so hard to make the Freedom events special.

Planning has been going on for several months and, given the history and traditions underpinning the occasion, it is a complex and intricate piece of work. So many different teams have been involved and I’m grateful for the hard work and thought that has gone into every aspect.

It promises to be a memorable weekend, particularly for the Law family who are travelling from near and far to see the new Freeman being honoured.

Congratulations on a successful conference

I had the pleasure of making the opening remarks at this year’s CG and OCE Staff Conference last week and I know from the feedback I have had that it was a fantastic week.

The programme was varied and engaging, but all linked into the Council’s aims and our aspirations for the city.

The team responsible for the conference deserve enormous praise for their effort, enthusiasm and creativity. I’m sure everyone who attended would agree that all of the hard work paid off. Thank you to everyone who helped organise the conference and also to all who attended.

Places were opened up to members of staff outside of CG and OCE and there was good take-up from other directorates.

All in all there were 31 events over 80 sessions. Fourteen of those were delivered by our own employees and 17 in partnership with other local organisations and charities. More than 400 staff attended.

Those are impressive headline numbers and a great snapshot of the reach of another successful staff conference.

Recognition for our rising stars – and their mentors

It is always heartening when dedicated and talented employees we have at Aberdeen City Council are recognised for their skills and I’m delighted that is the case in the forthcoming Law Awards of Scotland.

Scott Connor has been nominated in the Trainee of the Year category and Fiona Closs in the Junior In House Lawyer of the Year category.

Both will face competition, with five other finalists vying for the two awards, but regardless of the outcome on November 30 they can be proud of their achievements in being named finalists.

It’s a great honour for them as individuals early in their careers and reflects positively on the Council as a whole. Those who have mentored Scott and Fiona – sharing knowledge and experience – also deserve praise for their role in this recognition for the team.

At a time of great change within the organisation, it’s important to stress that good people will always be at the heart of the vital services we deliver on behalf of all those we serve. That focus will never change and the commitment to fostering talented individuals across the services is something we can all be proud of.

Remembrance reflections

My duties as Chief Executive are many and varied, but none is more humbling than that of representing the Council at the Remembrance events.

On Sunday the ceremony at the city war memorial and service at the St Nicholas Kirk were moving and thought provoking in equal measure as we joined the nation in remembering the sacrifices made in conflict.

Those from our own organisation were joined by other public service representatives as well as the armed forces, including reserves and cadets, and a variety of groups and individuals from throughout Aberdeen and beyond.

An enormous amount of planning and preparation is required to ensure the smooth running of the Remembrance programme. I thank everyone who played their part in that operation and ensured the city once again was able to pay its respects in a fitting manner.

Make your voice heard

With the consultation on the next phase of transformation now underway, I cannot stress enough how important it is you take this opportunity to have your say.

The Interim Functional Structure can be found here and there is an accompanying link to submit feedback.

We have already had a strong response to the engagement events held around the Target Operating Model and my hope is that we will continue to see this input grow from all areas of the organisation.

Please do take the time to consider the latest material and to play your part in shaping the way this moves forward.

All comments we receive through the feedback channels will be recorded, analysed and included as part of the final proposal for an Interim Functional Structure that will go to Full Council in December.

It is encouraging that I have already been answering very pertinent questions, showing that people are really drilling down into the detail and building an understanding of the process we are undertaking. The consultation period is a platform for every individual to make their voice heard.


A spectacular start to a packed winter programme

I must take the opportunity to thank everyone who played a part in the success of the spectacular fireworks display on Sunday.

More than 12,000 people turned out to enjoy the show, bringing the communities we serve together for the traditional November 5 celebrations.

After the disappointment of last year’s cancellation due to weather conditions, it was fantastic that the effort and dedication of the teams responsible for delivering such a popular event was rewarded with a great response from the public.

In the weeks ahead there will be many more events to get people talking and really engaged with their city – from the opening of the Christmas Village and switch on of the Christmas tree lights to the lights parade, which this year is combined with the Denis Law Freedom of the City celebration, and much, much more. There is certainly plenty to look forward to.

None of these events would be possible without the planning, expertise and teamwork behind the scenes at the Council. My thanks go to all involved at the weekend – here’s to the next successful event.

The loss of a valued colleague

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of a valued colleague from our Education and Children’s Services team.

Debbie Moir, who served with distinction as Head Teacher of Hanover Street School and most recently as a Quality Improvement Officer after being seconded to that role last year, had been receiving treatment for cancer and we have been informed of her death this week.

Our thoughts are with Debbie’s family and on behalf of all at the Council I am sending my deepest sympathies to them, offering the support you would expect at this difficult time.

My condolences also go to all who knew Debbie – not only as a knowledgeable and committed colleague and teacher but as a friend. The loss has been felt throughout the education services and beyond.

Debbie’s contribution to education in the city will not be forgotten and those who worked closely with her have fond memories of a very caring person who put children at the centre of everything she did, determined to ensure the best outcomes for young people. An infectious laugh, quick wit and ability to put others at ease were just some of the many other qualities which shone through and which will be greatly missed.