Chief Officer recruitment continues

I’m pleased to provide an update on the recruitment to the vacant Chief Officer posts, with the process nearing its conclusion.

This week we held assessment centres for the Strategic Place Planning and Integrated Children’s and Family Services roles and I’m delighted to say two preferred candidates have been selected.

Gale Beattie, currently interim Chief Officer for Strategic Place Planning, and Graeme Simpson, Lead Service Manager in the Integrated Children’s and Family Services cluster, are both experienced and well respected senior managers within the Council and I look forward to working with them in their Chief Officer roles. They will bring great knowledge, skills and energy to the senior leadership team.

Chief Officer appointments will conclude with the People and Organisation role after the summer recess.

The foundation the leadership team provides will be vital as we build for the future and it is very positive to have the bulk of that work done. It has been a thorough process, recognising the significance of these decisions.

Recently appointed Chief Officers will soon be in post, with Andrew Howe (Digital and Technology) and John Wilson (Capital) taking up roles on Monday. Sandra Ross (Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership) and Jonathan Belford (Finance) will start on September 3.

My thanks go to those who have taken on interim roles during this period of recruitment, with Sandra Buthlay (Finance) and Steve Robertson (Digital and Technology) making a valuable contribution. So too has Stephen Booth, who has combined his permanent role as Chief Officer Corporate Landlord with interim duties in Capital, and Morven Spalding, who continues as interim for People and Organisation.

I know the new recruits will be welcomed by staff throughout the organisation and once again I thank you in advance for the support provided to Chief Officers and Directors.

Growing together – in lots of different ways!

There’s a growing theme to this week’s blog post, so it’s only right to start with a mention for our very own Council Gardener.

The video blog series is now in its third month and Daniel Shand is already attracting quite a following. If you haven’t caught up on June instalment yet, there are two parts available to view now.

Daniel’s doing a great job of showcasing the knowledge and skill we have within the Council, with apprentice James Graham sharing some tips in the latest video, and it’s a fantastic way of engaging with viewers and passing on expert advice.

We often talk about the need to grow the sense of civic pride in the city and the Council Gardener is just one of the many ways we’re doing that.

On Thursday the annual Glitter Pick showed that spirit in action – with 24 clean-ups in 24 locations over the course of 24-hours in Aberdeen.

Thanks to Steven Shaw and his team for coordinating such a massive operation as well as to all of those who volunteered to take part. There were more than 30 groups involved and it’s brilliant to see everyone working together as part of the wider aims of the Clean Up Aberdeen initiative.

As a Council we spend more than £4million a year on clearing litter alone – that is money that could be put to use in other areas if we can keep working in partnership to change habits and keep our streets and open spaces clear.

We’re fortunate in Aberdeen that our young people are driving that change, something that has been recognised nationally.

Earlier in the month pupils and teachers from Hanover Street School travelled to London to be crowned UK champions of the Better Energy School Awards. It’s a huge honour for all those involved and my congratulations go to head teacher Alan Markey and teacher Elizabeth Elrick as well as all of the pupils in the group, who I know are very proud of the achievement.

The project went under the banner HSS Flying Eco Pigs Change the World! – and not surprisingly captured the imagination of judges.

Pupils learned about a range of environmental issues, from single use plastics to problems posed by discarded chewing gum on the streets of Aberdeen, and set about tackling them.

They created papier-mache pigs with eco messages on their wings that were awarded to local shopkeepers, cafe and bar owners who agreed to stop providing plastic single use items.

I’m told the Eco Pigs went far and wide – even reaching Sir David Attenborough, who sent a personal letter of thanks for the work Hanover Street is doing to protect the environment.

Young people are growing up with a better understanding of the issues the world is facing and a real passion to make positive changes – it’s fantastic that is being rewarded.

Great support for first Career Opportunities Information Day

Thank you to all who took time out to attend the inaugural Career Opportunities Information Day this week and to the team from People and Organisation who organised the successful event.

Hosted in the Town and County Hall on Wednesday, there was great support from throughout the Council from colleagues interested in expanding their skills or finding out more about career development opportunities with the Council and partners.

We were joined by Bon Accord Care and the Aberdeen Sports Village, Cornerstone, NHS Grampian, Scottish Fire and Rescue and Police Scotland as well as Skills Development Scotland, NESCOL and the University of Aberdeen.

There was a lot of positivity in the room, with a variety of Council teams on hand to offer guidance and support – not just our People and Organisation specialists but representatives also from internal teams that are actively recruiting and offering re-training opportunities in areas including teaching, early years and HGV driving.

I know there has been some really positive feedback and I’m sure everyone who joined on the day will have benefited. We will be looking to arrange similar events in future and will give consideration to timings to ensure as many people as possible can attend.

As I mentioned prior to the event, and I think it worth repeating, we’re committed to helping our people realise their potential and there continue to be great opportunities both with the Council and our partners. Over the weeks and months ahead we’ll continue to share details throughout the organisation.

Partnership working puts career opportunities in the spotlight

The first in what could become a regular series of events with a focus on career opportunities takes place tomorrow (June 20) for Council staff.

Colleagues in the Organisational Development team have put in a great deal of hard work to pull together an interesting programme featuring workshops as well as hosting stalls from a number of organisations.

Thanks to all those internally who have come together to deliver this and to those externally who have pledged their support.

The Career Opportunities Information Day is aimed at individuals interested in expanding their skills or finding out more about career opportunities with the Council and partners. I’m sure it will attract a lot of interest and everyone is welcome to drop in between 9am and 4pm at the Town and County Hall. Workshop places can be booked in advance.

As well as our own Council teams there will be representatives from Bon Accord Care and the Aberdeen Sports Village, Cornerstone, NHS Grampian, Scottish Fire and Rescue and Police Scotland in attendance in addition to Skills Development Scotland, NESCOL and the University of Aberdeen.

We’re committed to career development and ensuring individuals realise their potential – there continue to be great opportunities both with the Council and our partners, so it’s important information is shared as widely as possible.

I know these events have proved popular at other local authorities and I think there’s great potential for our own to gather momentum.

Success on the awards stage – and the bowling green!

On the back of the positivity around our own Star Awards, there’s more success to celebrate this week.

Aberdeen came away from the Tenant Information Service’s annual ceremony with a hat-trick of prizes and was a finalist in two further categories, which is fantastic national recognition.

As a landlord to tens of thousands of people – with 22,000 rental properties in the city – our innovation in tenant engagement and support is one of the most important elements of our day to day work.

The TIS presented Aberdeen City Council with the Danny Mullen Award, presented to the Organisation of the Year. It is the first time we have been honoured in this way and it means an enormous amount to the Council but most importantly our housing teams.

The criteria focuses on innovation in housing, with a particular emphasis on tenant participation. Our staff, elected members and, most importantly, tenants have embraced this in recent years and clearly judges recognise the great strides that have been taken.

This is underlined by Carol Hannaford, Development Officer for Tenant and Resident Participation, being crowned Tenant Participation Champion of the Year by the TIS. It’s a fantastic achievement by Carol and recognises the contribution she and her team have made in improving services by putting tenants at the heart of our approach.

The third award for Aberdeen on the evening went not to the Council but to one of our tenants – which is particularly fitting, given the approach we have adopted. Norma Groves won the Frances Nelson MBE Award for Tenant of the Year. The prize is a tribute to the dedication and commitment Norma makes to improving the lives of others in her community and the example she sets. It is the second consecutive year an Aberdeen tenant has been honoured, with Paul McMenemy the 2017 recipient.

Congratulations to Norma, Carol and all the many staff and tenants who work so hard all year round.

From the awards stage to the bowling green, there has been success for colleagues on the sporting front.

The Meff Spence Trophy was contested at Broughty Bowling Club between hosts City of Dundee and Bon Accord Bowling Association – with both squads featuring strong representation from Council staff. Bon Accord came through to win 148-107 and bring the trophy back to Aberdeen. Well done to all who played on the day.

Congratulations to our Star Awards finalists and winners

Last night the Star Awards winners for 2018 were crowned and it was inspiring evening at the Beach Ballroom as we recognised colleagues from across the Council.

Can I firstly congratulate all of our finalists – to be shortlisted is a fantastic achievement, with nominations this year as strong as ever.

Our winners deserved their time in the spotlight and my congratulations to all of those who came away with a coveted Star Award.

The 2018 roll of honour is:

Improving Staff Experience – Lynn Scanlon;

Collaboration – Marchburn and Oldtown Working Group;

Improving Use of Resources – Heathryfold Park Building Project;

Innovation – Will Burnish, flooding and coastal operations;

Rising Star – Graeme Baird;

People’s Champion – Ian Geddes;

Improving Customer Experience –  Grace Shanks;

Team of the Year – Environmental Services, Aberdeen In Bloom team;

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Special mention to Gordon McDade and the hard-working organising group who pulled the whole event together from start to finish as well as everyone who played their part – from our MCs on the night to sponsors, judges and everyone in between. It was a real team effort.

The Star Awards allow us to come together to celebrate not just the award wins and finalists but all the amazing work that has been done over the past year.

Not everyone can win a Star Award – but every single one of us within the Council should take a real sense of pride in this organisation. As Chief Executive I’m certainly proud of our people and proud of the way we deliver for everyone we serve in the city.

When you take a step back and consider all of the ways Aberdeen City Council touches the lives of residents and visitors, not to mention the impact we have on businesses and the third sector, it is quite incredible. Every individual member of staff, every team, every cluster and function is working day in and day out to make a difference.

We don’t often take the time to acknowledge all of the great things that you do as staff. I made reference last night to modesty being a very admirable Aberdonian quality. Often I hear things being spoken about as ‘Business as Usual’. In actual fact, so often what you do is extraordinary and I’m delighted we are able to recognise just some of those contributions through the Star Awards.

I never fail to come away from the Star Awards feeling energised by the efforts of colleagues – not to mention humbled by the selflessness that shines through time and time again. Last night was no exception.

Once again my congratulations go to our winners and finalists any my thanks to everyone who played a part, from nominating and judging through to organising and entertaining.


A huge congratulations to Big Noise

Everyone loves a birthday party – and last week I had the real pleasure of attending a very special one at Torry Academy.

Big Noise Torry held a celebration to mark its third birthday and 10 years of Big Noise across Scotland.

Hosted by Sistema, the fantastic organisation behind the project, the young musicians were the stars of the show. So much positive energy,  so much talent on display and so many big, big smiles to go with the Big Noise.

The Council has invested significant funds in bringing Big Noise Torry to life – but the benefits to the community make that a very worthwhile investment.

It isn’t just about the children, who gain massively from the programme, but also about engaging with parents, carers, grandparents, volunteers, teachers, tutors and many more. The adults didn’t disappoint with their very own performance and it was an afternoon full of warmth and laughter.

Last week’s birthday concert showed the community spirit around Big Noise Torry in great style and I must thank Jenny Cranna and everyone at Torry Academy for hosting the programme over the years and the celebration.

Thanks also go to all of the non-school staff who make the project the success it is – not to mention the team at Sistema, who have taken Aberdeen to heart as much as Aberdeen has embraced Big Noise.

Three cheers to end the week

It’s nice to end the working week on a note of congratulations and there is a hat-trick to celebrate today.

On June 1 Bon Accord Care took centre stage at the cHeRries Awards. Now in their 11th year, the annual ceremony recognises excellence in HR. Bon Accord Care claimed the prize in the Exceptional Employee Engagement category, in the face of competition from finalists from the private sector. It is a fantastic achievement and a real endorsement for the approach being taken.

Next week it is the turn of staff and pupils from Hanover Street School to be put in the spotlight – with a group travelling to London Zoo on Thursday to collect the prize as Scottish champions in the Better Energy School Awards. Congratulations to all of the young pupils involved, not to mention Elizabeth Elrick and the rest of the Hanover Street team.

Finally, congratulations to all involved with our very own  choir – Bonnie Achord.  Talented colleagues took to the stage for the VSA Sing, Sing, Sing event at the Beach Ballroom last month to continue their support for a very popular charity event – proudly flying the flag for Aberdeen City Council and the organisations represented in the choir’s membership, including Aberdeenshire Council and NHS Grampian. It’s a fantastic cause to support and I know lots of planning and preparation went into the latest performance. Well done to all.

Soon the attention also turns to the Star Awards, with the presentation evening taking place on Thursday. I’m looking forward to recognising all of those shortlisted, nominated by their peers and the public. The Star Awards represent the perfect opportunity to recognise the great work being done by individuals and teams throughout the Council and it promises to be another great occasion.

Latest Chief Officer appointment confirmed

Further to my update at the beginning of the week, I’m delighted to confirm that Sandra Ross has been appointed to the Chief Officer role at the Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership.

Sandra is already prominent in the care sector in Aberdeen through her current role as Managing Director of Bon Accord Care and her experience and expertise will be valuable to the Partnership.

Sandra will take up post later in the summer. As intimated on Tuesday, Sally Shaw will continue in the role of Interim Chief Officer to ensure a smooth handover process.

This is another important step in building the leadership team and Sandra will have an important role to play not only with the Partnership but in terms of the collaborative approach that is so vital to the Council and our public sector partners.

Further updates on recruitment for the remaining Chief Officer vacancies will be shared as they become available.

Roll-out of refreshed branding begins

Our new Aberdeen City Council crest and branding has made its first appearance on our digital platforms today and you will begin to see it more and more in the weeks and months ahead.

When the crest was approved at the City Growth and Resources Committee it was on the basis of a phased approach.

Our website, social media and other digital platforms will be the first to benefit from the new and clearer visual identity. It will also be rolled out to include other assets – for example print material, signage and vehicle livery – only when these are due for replacement or reprinting.

This approach minimises any costs to the Council and was central to the decision to move forward with the branding.


At the time of the decision I saw debate on the Ideas Hub about the merits of the new branding and many of the comments related to costs – understandably given the focus on budgets throughout the organisation.

The design work was undertaken by our talented in-house team led by Keith Fraser, as part of their normal schedule of work, and therefore there was no spend on external agencies or consultancies. The roll-out, as mentioned, is being managed to ensure there is no additional expenditure. I hope that gives comfort to those who voiced concerns.

The refresh of the branding, with the new crest at its heart, was prompted by issues with the reproduction of the intricate existing crest – which can become lost when displayed amongst other partner logos and doesn’t always print well. Those are the technical considerations.

More importantly, the focus on accessibility is vital for the Council and there are very clear stipulations for visual materials. The new crest and branding applies those principles, with comprehensive brand guidelines being finalised and providing clear direction on a palette of colours and specific fonts to ensure material meets with our commitment to equalities. Accessibility for all of our customer groups is imperative, particularly as we move to a greater emphasis on digital platforms.

Information and guidance from Marketing and Design colleagues about how this will apply across the Council will be updated on The Zone. In the meantime there are no actions for individual services at this stage.

At a time when we are building the Council of the future, the new and contemporary identity also represents the evolution of the organisation and has been designed with digital applications as a priority. It is another piece in the jigsaw as the picture of our digital approach takes shape.

This is an important piece of work and I must thank everyone who has played their part. The design and development of a new brand includes an enormous amount of diligence and creativity – both of which have been to the fore in this project, demonstrating the in-house capability we have.

I’m looking forward to the new crest becoming a familiar sight throughout the Council and the city.