Celebrating success in all its guises

Success takes many forms in an organisation as large and diverse as Aberdeen City Council – but hard work, knowledge and expertise underpin everything we achieve.

There have been some great achievements in the past week across many different services.  Some have taken the form of awards, others relate to exceptional delivery.

There was an example of that this weekend, when in the early hours of Saturday morning teams were mobilised to respond as part of the Local Resilience Partnership after reports of a fire in a communal area at Cairncry Court, a multi-storey property.

Fortunately nobody was injured in the incident, which is always the prime concern, and there was no serious damage to the building – however in the early stages of any response that can never be taken for granted.

The fire did impact on power and water supply to the building and plans had to be made for a rest centre for residents, not to mention the remedial work required to restore normal service.

The response from Aberdeen City Council teams and our partners was excellent and I commend everyone for their swift, reassuring and efficient actions. Special mention must go to Wendy Carle and Paul Clark for their exemplary efforts on site. It is the latest in a number of incidents Wendy and her colleagues as well as Paul and his colleagues from building services have dealt with.

Staying on the theme of recognising staff who go above and beyond the call of duty, that applies to two employees who have recently reached 25-years of service. Mary Simpson, cleaning team leader for the Bridge of Don and Oldmachar areas, and Carol Scott, who is the cleaning charge-hand at St Machar Academy, have rightly won praise for their attitude and commitment. Both ladies lead by example and I congratulate them on their service.

The blend of experience and new staff eager to learn will be vital in building the Council of the future and we had confirmation this week that the approach is paying dividends,

Three of our apprentices were shortlisted in the APSE annual awards.  Graeme Baird, Craig Paterson and David Hutcheon flew the flag proudly for Aberdeen in the face of competition from across the country.

All three did fantastically well to reach the final and Graeme triumphed on the night by winning the Apprentice of the Year prize – the fourth consecutive year he has been chosen by judges, which is a remarkable achievement for Graeme and all those who have supported him through his apprenticeship.

Within 24-hours of that individual award we had further success on a project level at the Aberdeen Society of Architects annual ceremony, with Marischal Square winning the public realm award and The Hub at Middlefield commended. These awards reflect positively on the teams that have brought two very different but important developments to fruition.

To round off the recent good news, I must take the opportunity to thank Kincorth Academy’s acting head teacher Mike Paul and his team for their work, which was singled out by inspectors as an important factor in the continued improvement of the school and the transition plans for the opening of Lochside Academy.

Don’t miss the chance to recognise colleagues who shine

There’s just one week to go until nominations close for the 2018 Star Awards – if you haven’t taken the opportunity to make your voice heard, now’s the time to do so.

The Star Awards have become an important part of the Council calendar for us and are all about celebrating those who go the extra mile for those we serve, colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

It’s always humbling to hear the stories behind the nominations – we’re very fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated, skilled and, in so many cases, selfless team members.

The nomination process is straightforward and I’d love to see recommendations coming in from across every service. The response so far has been great, but the more nominations the better as far as the Star Awards team and I are concerned.

On that note, can I thank all those who have made themselves available to organise this year’s awards. A lot of hard work goes into making it happen and I know that is appreciated  throughout the Council.

Nominations can be submitted in a range of categories and all of the information can be found here. The deadline is noon on Friday, March 2.

I appreciate the contribution of everyone who has taken time out to nominate a colleague so far and hope there are many more to follow over the next week.

SPECTRA puts Aberdeen in the spotlight

The feel-good factor around SPECTRA 18 won’t have passed you by I’m sure – the reaction to this year’s event has been fantastic.

The figures show more than 91,000 visits across the three sites over the four days, significantly up on last year.

As is so often the case, the statistics tell only a small part of the tale. The wonderful pictures, amazing feedback and goodwill towards the event add the real colour to the story.

SPECTRA helps put Aberdeen on the map internationally with the calibre of artists it attracts, helping to draw in visitors from far and near, but it also brings people together from all corners of the city and generated a real buzz amongst residents and businesses alike.

What began as an idea has grown to become the success we all recognise – and that success just wouldn’t be possible without the endeavours and efforts of colleagues from a number of teams, not least City Events and culture.

Our valued partners, including Curated Place to name just one, share in the praise for the delivery of what is one of Scotland’s most dynamic events.

It is a credit to all involved that this year’s event was bigger and better than ever before and that the high bar set previously was surpassed.

On behalf of the Council and the tens of thousands who braved the winter chill to enjoy all that SPECTRA had to offer, my thanks go out to all those involved.

Transition to Target Operating Model

Following Friday’s meeting of the Strategic Transformation Committee (STC), I am now able to share with you the detail of the report on the transition to the Target Operating Model (TOM) which was considered in the private section of Friday’s meeting. The report can be found online here as the second additional circulation.

As a result of the regulatory framework we work under following the bond issue in 2016, the Council was required to first notify the London Stock Exchange of the detail of the report on the transition to the TOM and that was done this morning. Following that notification, I am now in a position to provide you with the same information.

On Friday the STC gave its approval for the next stage in the transition to the interim functional structure.

The decision by members of the committee included approval for recommendations to allow for a reduction by up to 230 full time equivalent (FTE) posts. An additional 140 FTE posts which are currently vacant and not required within the TOM will also be disestablished.

Posts have been identified as opportunities for change and in-scope for change as a result of teams coming together in the new interim structure. This may mean there are too many roles within a new team for the required service delivery.

The reduction in posts together with the dis-establishment of current vacant posts is expected to realise £10.378million in savings in 2018/19 and it is hoped these savings can be achieved through voluntary means.

We will manage the reduction in posts in as sensitive and understanding way as we can. Communication will be central in managing this process and as opportunities for change are identified, employees will be involved through both engagement and consultation.

Trade Union representatives are being briefed this morning, including information on the timeline for consultation.

It is planned that during the rest of February the Council establishes the extent of FTE post reduction that can be achieved through further disestablishment of vacant posts, agency worker relationships, secondments and non-renewal of fixed term contracts.  The Council is also committed to using VSER subject to the operational needs of the Council and budgetary constraints. This will include reconsideration of previously non-supported VSER applications.

The position will be reviewed at the end of February in advance of the new organisational structures for the affected areas being presented to the Transformation Delivery Boards and the Transformation Management Board.

As new organisational structures are adopted the Council will seek to implement those new structures including FTE post reduction throughout March.  At the moment these are simply indicative time frames which are subject to change depending on the outcome of consultation meetings and logistical considerations.

Members of the Extended Corporate Management Team and Third Tier managers have been asked to attend a meeting today to ensure they are aware of the process we are following. I would urge anyone with specific questions or concerns to raise them through their manager in the first instance.

I appreciate the uncertainty many will feel in relation to the transition to the TOM and I would ask everyone to be mindful of that and to be supportive to colleagues.

Whilst the reduction in posts will understandably be a focus of attention, Friday’s report included wider information that I would urge everyone to read to gain a greater understanding of the rationale being used.

You will, of course, be interested in what the transition to the interim functional structure means for you individually in terms of your role, responsibilities and ways of working – staff will be fully informed and involved through the implementation stages. All cost centres, services and staff posts have already been aligned to the appropriate function on paper and plans for how everyone will be re-aligned and begin to work are currently being developed.

It is important to note there will continue to be opportunities to fill vacancies for posts at the heart of the TOM, many of which will appeal to existing Aberdeen City Council employees keen to utilise existing skills or to explore options for retraining.

As I have stressed in the engagement sessions we have held and at various intervals in recent months, whilst we are committed to change and to our ambitions to build the Council of the future there is also a sincere will to be inclusive and respectful of all staff during this journey.

Once again, I thank you for your support and the valuable input there has been to date. The contribution of our employees will continue to be essential as we shape the journey. we are on as an organisation.

Preparation is key to responding in times of crisis

We often talk about the Council’s purpose of ensuring people, place and economy prosper. That role is central to our daily business and it is right that we promote it – but what we must ensure is that the conversation about the other vital elements of our purpose is heard just as loudly.

Wherever possible we seek to protect people and place from harm.

We are, however, faced with events outside of our control and unfortunately harm to does occur – we see that far too regularly. In these challenging situations Aberdeen City Council is relied upon to respond, rescue and recover.

Experience shows that when called upon we are capable of doing so in ways which put the commitment, professionalism and expertise of our staff in sharp focus. Our response in times of crisis has been a source of great pride for me in my role as chief executive.

What we cannot do is stand still – and nor can we work in isolation.

Training and development in conjunction with our colleagues in the emergency services, neighbouring local authorities and other public sector bodies is crucial and it’s pleasing to see that gathering pace.

In recent weeks I joined an emergency planning exercise in Aberdeen, where the collaborative approach was put into action. It was particularly useful for our own Duty Emergency Response Coordinators (DERCs).

The scenarios for these exercises vary – we have to plan for every eventuality – but the common thread is the aim of improving the way we work together to respond on behalf of the individuals and communities we serve. Learning lessons from these exercises, and of course from the live incidents we deal with, is essential.

It’s important to add that communities are key to how we plan. It’s recognised quite often it will be groups and individuals in the areas affected who respond first, but we have to make sure we give them the support to do so as part of a joined-up approach.

The most recent session provoked interesting discussion and action points and my thanks go to all staff and representatives from our partners who took part in the day.