Wild and dangerous animals, dropped kerbs … and the Council’s digital journey

It maybe doesn’t sound like they have much in common, but wild and dangerous animals have been sitting side by side with dropped kerbs in our digital programme.

The link is new online forms that allow customers to apply through the Council’s website for licences and permits.

There has been a flurry of activity in recent weeks, with the team going live across a variety of subject areas. The latest forms include:

  • Parking permits (residential and business), including new applications, renewals, lost permits, contractor permits and change of details;
  • Environmental health, including pest reporting, stray dogs and food safety;
  • Animal licensing, including wild and dangerous animal licences and pet shop licences;
  • Dropped kerb and driveway applications.

All in all more than 20 new online forms went live on a single day this month and the programme will continue to pick up pace, with many more projects being developed in a cycle of short sprints.

Every digital process that comes into service is designed to improve the customer and staff experience, a central focus of the shift to the Target Operating Model.

My thanks go to the whole project team, being led by Kate Fraser. They are working to a very tight schedule and it’s been really encouraging for all involved to be able to bring these digital options on stream.

I’m sure we can all relate in our personal experiences how digital platforms have changed the way we live our lives – from online banking and shopping to finding information and consuming media – and our customers expect the same transformation as they interact with us and perform everyday transactions.

There’s much more to follow as we carry on through our digital journey, both quick wins and more complex long-term opportunities. As ever, the input of those who know our organisation best – staff and customers – is vital and it’s fantastic to see some early ideas beginning to filter through to delivery.

Thank you to all involved in Beachview Court response

The team ethic that underpins so much of the work we do as a Council came to the fore at the weekend as we dealt with an incident at Beachview Court.

A leak caused by a fractured pipe in the roof water tank affected the lifts and stairwells at the property, with water supplies to householders interrupted as repairs were carried out and other disruption in and around the building.

Although the initial incident happened on Friday, the response carried on through the weekend both in terms of housing staff ensuring residents were reassured and given the care and attention they needed as well as from building services colleagues who were put to work restoring services in the buildings.

Colin Low, Ian Cowling and Paul Tytler were amongst those who coordinated the effort, with Richard Sweetnam on duty in his role as Duty Emergency Response Coordinator, and many more also involved on the frontline.

Can I pass on a huge thanks to all those who were part of the cross-function team who made sure a testing situation was managed in a calm, professional and caring manner. I know residents of the building appreciated everything that was done for them.

Congratulations across the Council!

Another incredibly busy week for across the Council has brought some early festive cheer, with news of a succession of award wins for talented colleagues.

On Wednesday at the National Outdoor Events Association annual ceremony in Bath, Aberdeen City Council’s name was up in lights as winner in the NOEA Scotland Tribute Award in recognition of the City Growth events team’s promotion and running of the Tour Series cycling event.

Well done to Dawn Schultz and her colleagues for that recognition – although there’s no rest in that line of work, with attention quickly turning to last night’s Christmas tree lights switch-on and this Sunday’s Christmas lights parade.

Steven Shaw’s team from Operations are on a roll at the moment and have been toasting two more awards.

The Countryside Rangers were commended at the VIBES Awards in the Climate Adaptation Category – recognised for an entry based on the Tree for Every Citizen initiative and the work being done at East Tullos Burn and Seaton Wetland, which includes the use of the sites for outdoor learning.

Community involvement was noted by the judges as a cause for celebration, and that’s a great endorsement for the ethos we are so keen to embrace throughout the organisation. The second accolade came from ACVO, with a Volunteer Friendly Award marking the commitment to coordinating and developing volunteering opportunities with the Countryside Rangers.

It’s also important to acknowledge the wider relationship with community groups, which was a focus at the recent Keep Scotland Beautiful Your Neighbourhood seminar and awards. Aberdeen continues to lead the way – with 25 award winners and nine groups receiving certificates of distinction. No other local authority had the same level of success and it’s a brilliant example of communities and the Council, through Steven’s teams, working together with common goals.

Staying in Operations, Integrated Children’s and Family Services took centre stage at the national Quality Improvement Awards. Named the top team in Scotland, Sacha Will and her team were praised for the multi-agency approach which is improving family support services in Aberdeen. The praise for the success of the Council’s collaborative approach is a tremendous credit to the work that has been done.

Not to be outdone, Doug Gibb also has success to report to keep the Operations flag flying high. At the North East Scotland College Awards three awards and two runner-up spots in the 11 apprenticeship categories went to Aberdeen City Council’s talented crop. Brandon Russell collected two prizes – the First Year Carpentry and Joinery Apprentice of the Year and the Gordon Burns Award for best draughtperson – whilst Heidi Wards was winner of the David Murray Shield, the introduction to construction award. Lewis Burt was runner-up to Brandon in the first year category and Stewart McCombie runner-up in the Second Year Carpentry and Joinery Apprentice of the Year section. A huge congratulations to all of the apprentices and to Doug for his work in developing our workforce.

In Customer, Aberdeen was well represented as a runner-up in all four categories at the Tenant Participation and Advisory Service (TPAS) annual awards: Tenant of the Year (Pearl Smart); Tenant Group of the Year (Powis Tenant and Resident Group); Best Practice in Reporting Performance (Aberdeen City Council); Best Practice in Inovolving Customers (NETRALT project). My thanks go to Susan McLeod and to Carol Hannaford for the fantastic work being done with our tenants across the city.

To round off the good news, Commissioning colleagues were also in the spotlight at the National Procurement Awards – with Stuart Calderwood representing the Council as we were highly commended in the Social and Community Benefit Category for the Tillydrone Community Hub project. A real cross-Council effort from Craig Innes and the team, involving clusters across the Council and, even more importantly, the end users in the community.

Congratulations and thanks to all of those involved in the latest round of award wins and recognition – it’s a real boost for every one of your colleagues in every corner of the Council.

Sleep in the Park puts homelessness in focus

As a Council we deal with incredibly tough and challenging issues every hour of every day. Homelessness is one that looms large on that list.

The most basic of human needs – to have shelter and all that brings – is something we all tend to take for granted.

The reality for so many in our city and throughout Britain is very different. For an organisation which exists to protect the people and place from harm, continuing our work to prevent and reduce homelessness is imperative.

As with so many of the problems we face, the Council cannot act alone. We are forging strong partnerships with agencies and organisations locally and nationally as we work towards common aims, with the third sector playing a major role.

Social Bite is one of the charities doing a power of work and we’re delighted to be supporting the Sleep in the Park initiative, which will bring thousands of people and four cities together on December 8.

In Aberdeen we’ll gather in Duthie Park for the north-east event, running from early evening through to the following morning.

Sleep in the Park

The sleep out will raise awareness and crucially funds to support Social Bite’s work, with a £4million target across Scotland this year.

A number of councillors have signed-up, with myself and Derek McGowan, Chief Officer for Early Intervention and Community Empowerment, as well as Martin Murchie, Chief Officer for Business Intelligence and Performance Management, amongst the staff taking part.

We both have fundraising pages set up (click here for my page, here for Martin’s and this link for Derek’s) for anyone who wishes to support. If you’re registered and would be keen to promote your fundraising page through my blog please send a link to ChiefExec@aberdeencity.gov.uk and we will get those added.

A team of teachers and youth workers at Hazlehead Academy have joined the list, with fundraising details here.

A huge thank you to everyone who has already donated, your support is very much appreciated.

If you’re interested in taking part, all the information can be found at the Sleep in the Park website.

One night out in the open for those of us taking part doesn’t begin to give an insight into the very real crisis faced by the individuals and families we serve who are affected by homelessness, but in a small way offers the opportunity to help draw attention to the issue and contribute to the efforts to provide lasting solutions. Thank you in advance to all those supporting Social Bite’s initiative.

 

Remembrance: 100 years

Throughout the city, throughout Britain and throughout the world the centenary of Armistice Day has served as a poignant reminder and commemoration of the sacrifices made by so many.

In Aberdeen yesterday, veterans came together with Council representatives led by the Lord Provost, public sector colleagues including the Police pipe band, community groups and members of the public at the War Memorial  for a short ceremony and to observe the two-minute silence before moving the Kirk of St Nicholas Uniting for the traditional church service.

It was a very well attended and impeccably observed commemoration which demonstrated Aberdeen’s debt of gratitude.

On behalf of the Council my thanks go to all those who attended and to the many colleagues who were involved in the weeks of planning for the event as well as for ensuring its smooth running on the day.

In communities throughout the city there were many other events both on Remembrance Day and in the weeks leading up to the 100th anniversary.

Schools have been educating the next generation about the heroes of previous generations and there have been some wonderful stories locally and nationally that have helped us all to remember the tragedy of conflict and the amazing, uplifting courage of those who served.

Lest we forget.

Reflections on a busy week in the life of the Council

Council business is always incredibly varied and our City Growth colleagues have demonstrated that in the past week, ably supported by teams from across the functions and clusters.

On Monday, thousands were treated to a spectacular fireworks display over the city thanks to the hard work and months of planning put in by Dawn Schultz and the City Events team in partnership with many others across the organisation who play a key role, not least those tasked with the roads and traffic logistics.

It is always a fantastic gathering, bringing people together from all corners of Aberdeen and far beyond.

The Council’s events programme is incredibly diverse and in the midst of preparing for the fun and festivities of Christmas the team also had the State of the Cities Conference to pull together.

Based on the first annual report from the Economic Policy Panel, the conference on Friday brought together experts from a variety of fields as keynote speakers as well as delegates from across the region with a keen interest in the economic performance and strategy for the future. No fireworks in terms of the very informed and healthy panel discussions on the day!

Dawn and Paula Fullerton, from City Events, and Shevonne Bruce, from the Communications cluster, did a wonderful job working with Richard Sweetnam to pull together the programme and ensure a successful inaugural conference.

I must also thank Richard, Jamie Coventry and Gregor Docherty for their work over the past year in establishing the Economic Policy Panel and supporting members as they worked towards the first report, with City Growth colleague Angela Taylor and designer Laura McAra, from the Communications cluster, doing sterling work in bringing the report document to life.

The conference and the report underlined the spirit of optimism around Aberdeen’s economic prospects, not shying away from the challenges that we as a Council and our partners in the city have to tackle. It was a very positive event and lays the foundations for the months and years ahead.