Sharing an important Christmas message on suicide prevention

In recent months I have been welcomed to the meetings of Choose Life Prevent Suicide North East Scotland, where it has been incredibly encouraging to see the work being done to address such an important subject.

The key focus for the group at this time of year is ensuring awareness of the help available over the festive period and as a Council we are committed to supporting that.

I hope you have all received information that was cascaded by email recently but I thought it was worth repeating through my blog.

If you or anyone you know needs support, please don’t think twice about making that call or seeking out the information that’s available.

Whether by calling the Samaritans (116 123), Breathing Space (0800 838587) or through the Prevent Suicide North East Scotland app (available through app stores or via there is help available.

Christmas and New Year can be a very difficult time for so many people and Choose Life have a very important message that hopefully we can all take on board: Be kind to each other and yourself.


Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone at Aberdeen City Council, your family, loved ones and friends.

After a flurry of activity in the past week, the holiday season is upon us with the school term finished and our offices quietening down.

For many colleagues there will be vital work continuing right through the weeks ahead – keeping people safe, caring for those who rely on us, keeping the city’s services running and the traffic moving.

As well as those on duty there are also lots who are on call and ready to respond to every eventuality, which is another important part of life in a big city Council.

I want to once again pass on my special thanks to everyone who will be working over the festive period.

Whether you’re on duty or getting a welcome break, very best wishes to all.

Scottish Government funding settlement confirmed

There has understandably been a great deal of media attention this week as the Scottish Government funding settlements for local authorities have been announced.

Finance colleagues are very busy working through the detail of the settlement and collating thorough analysis.

In the New Year there will be further communications and a video briefing for staff on the detail of the settlement in the context of preparations for our own budget meeting in March. It’s important we build understanding of the finances that underpin everything we do and bring that to life for all staff.

The overarching picture is, as anticipated, one of contracting central funding. That underlines the challenge we face as an organisation in continuing to meet growing demand for our services.

The focus of the transformation we have embarked upon is on ensuring efficient operations which enhance customer experience and allow resources to be directed towards protecting the vulnerable.

That’s a very difficult task and we have to continue working together, evolving and adapting, to keep delivering for all those we serve.

The first phase of our transformation has provided the platform to build for the future and delivered our 2018/19 budget – now we need to stay focused on implementing phases 2-4 as we plan for the next set of budgets. Thanks to everyone for their hard work so far in building that solid base.

Sad news of Arthur Anderson’s passing

We have received the sad news of the death of our colleague Arthur Anderson, a valued member of the Strategic Place Planning team who had given 39-years of service.

Arthur, an application support assistant, passed away at the weekend and I know it is an incredibly difficult time for all those who worked alongside him. A death in the Council family is always felt deeply and there is support available to anyone affected.

On behalf of the Council, my condolences go to family members and all who knew Arthur.

Colleagues speak of a quiet man who was warmly regarded and highly respected as an important member of the team.

It was touching to hear those closest to Arthur at the Council saying that he would have wanted everyone to stand together and help each other out, which is exactly what the team are doing at this difficult time.

Current phase of transformation offers opportunities to shape the Council of the Future

Transformation has been a subject that has been at the top of the agenda since the approval of the Target Operating Model last summer.   

Internally and externally there has been significant discussion, debate and scrutiny of the plans. That conversation is welcome and demonstrates the importance of the journey that we’re on.   

With the first phase of transformation completed over the summer, and the structure bedded in, the full focus is now on Phases 2-4.   

It’s important that we continue to take stock from Phase 1, to discuss with each other and with managers and senior leaders how it felt and what the impacts have been, to make sure that as we move forward with Phases 2-4 improvements are being made in the right areas and in the right ways.   

The leadership team and I have committed to listening carefully to your feedback, to engaging and collaborating at every opportunity, and to move forward in a way which emphasises the value of staff and the contribution you all continue to make.   

I’m excited about the opportunities arising from this approach as we continue through the current period of our transformation – with the focus on embracing technology, working together, and exploring the possibilities that are opening up for the Council as we all seek to improve service delivery for residents, businesses and everyone we serve.  

We will need to look after each other, keep talking about what is working well and what can be done differently and better, and keep each other focussed on the outcomes that we need to achieve.  

Hand in hand with our aim of better meeting the changing needs of the people and the place is a requirement to create more efficient ways of working to ensure financial sustainability in the face of increasingly challenging funding constraints.   

The vision is of a smart city where technology is the driver for a prosperous future for individuals, communities and businesses.  

The projects at the heart of Phases 2-4 of our transformation demonstrate a commitment to innovation. There are a range of ideas and concepts in a comprehensive portfolio and I’d urge everyone to take time to learn more about the plans, which you can find outlined on the Transformation Zone.

These are the projects that have been identified for development – but it is not a definitive list. Some will be added as new technologies emerge, others may be refined or revised as the process gathers pace. The intention is for a very agile and dynamic approach, which will be shaped by those who know our business best, including staff, customers and elected members.   

We all have the opportunity to be a driving force in this positive change. The success of transformation will be amplified with your contribution and engagement, with ideas and input welcome at every stage and in relation to every project.  

The first opportunity for everyone to collectively build our Council of the Future is by shaping our underlying principles and behaviours. You can do this with your manager, with your team or input individually and you will find more information here .  

It is a two-way commitment, with the Council equipped to support employees in growing their skills, building knowledge and developing careers with the Council and partners as the public sector continues to evolve.  

This period of transformation is the most important the Council has ever undertaken and will provide the foundation for our ambitions for the city’s future. Thank you in advance for your support.

Important lessons in lots of different ways during a whirlwind week

On behalf or the Council, can I pass on a huge thank you to everyone who took part in Sleep in the Park or who supported the cause with generous donations.

Thousands took part across Scotland and it was a really great experience to join the Aberdeen event at Duthie Park along with colleagues and elected members.

One night out in the elements can never replicate the harsh reality faced day in and day out by those affected by homelessness and sleeping rough – but everyone who took part has helped to raise the profile of the issue and, crucially, millions of pounds to support Social Bite’s work. As an organisation we’ll continue to work with partners, including the third sector, to help reduce homelessness.

Sleep in the Park in Aberdeen had a real community feel, with Derek McInnes making a special appearance for the bedtime story. It was a difficult week for all associated with the Dons, with the disappointment of the cup final defeat still raw, but that was put to one side as the club threw its weight behind the sleep out with genuine and heartfelt support from Derek. As he is the first to acknowledge, there are always issues that help put any personal or professional disappointment into perspective and homelessness is certainly one of those.

In the same week the club and players were out in force to support the Cash for Kids appeal and Mission Christmas, with Dons supporters adding to the donations being made across the city

That type of civic leadership from the club is a great example of the attitude that will help ensure a bright future for the city. The Council and public sector partners play a leading role in that but we’re very fortunate to have so many proactive and supportive organisations willing and able to join that collaborative approach.

Sleep in the Park was the culmination of a really positive and thought provoking week for me and colleagues from many different services.

I was delighted to join our tenant group’s Christmas party on Tuesday – there aren’t many Council meetings that end up with the room joining in the Grand Old Duke of York!

It was fantastic fun and a real joy to celebrate the work of a group which is doing so much to represent the views and needs of the Council’s tenants, winning national recognition year after year with too many awards to list. Staff and tenants share a real passion for making things better for all and as a Council we’re reaping the benefits of that enthusiasm.

From singing and dancing, the next stop was a cooking lesson courtesy of a looked after children’s board meeting. The underlying message was about our role as corporate parents and the importance of life skills for the young people under our wing. It’s so easy to take for granted, but for young people these lessons can have a real lasting impact in terms of a happy and healthy journey into adulthood.

On Friday I attended an event with a focus on the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, where we heard from three former care experienced young people. The emphasis was on the role we play in telling young people their life story and how we can improve in this area. There is so much we can learn and do better simply by listening to those who understand the subject best, it really is inspiring to have that direct input.

A week of contrast for me, but every experience was a positive one and the cause of great optimism for future.

A New Year resolution in support of courageous colleagues

As I wrote my Christmas message earlier in the week, I started thinking about the new year and what 2019 will bring us as a Council.

Of course, its impossible to know what’s around the corner for us either as an organisation or as an individual.

I’ve been reminded of that several times this year, by a range of colleagues within ACC, who have experienced the shock of a cancer diagnosis. Conversations with these colleagues leave you feeling incredibly in awe of their strength, bravery, resilience and optimism.

All of course stress the importance of the screening services and facilities that we all have access to – both men and women,  young and old.

So as I start to think about my New Year resolution, I’m definitely going to make a personal commitment to continue to access these screening services and I encourage you to do the same.

Let’s hope our colleagues continue to have the courage and bravery to cope with their treatment and as their “work family” lets give them all a commitment to be there for them when they need us most.

Christmas wishes and reflections


Can I take the opportunity to pass on my festive best wishes to all at Aberdeen City Council – here’s to a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

I’m always very conscious that although the holiday season is looming, for so many colleagues it will be business as usual throughout. My thanks go to everyone working over the public holidays and keeping vital services running, it is very much appreciated not only internally but by all those we serve in Aberdeen.  If you are able to get a break over the festive period, I hope you have a good one and return refreshed and ready for 2019.

A great deal has been achieved this year and it’s important to acknowledge the pace of the transformation that we’re undertaking as an organisation. I know there have been challenges for every area of our business as we change and adapt – thank you for your support and commitment. My appreciation also goes to colleagues who have moved on during the course of the year for all they contributed, many over lengthy and distinguished service.

Continuing on the note of thanks, special mention to designer Scott Cumming from the Communications team for his work on the Council’s digital Christmas card. It will be seen far and wide and is a great celebration of Christmas in the city.

Of course, Broad Street has a very festive feel at the moment with the Christmas Village in full swing. We’re getting a particularly close view from Marischal College – with one ride in particular flying past at regular intervals and keeping us all on our toes!

It has been fantastic to see so much positivity around the village and the Christmas in Aberdeen programme in general. The conversation on social media and around the city has been overwhelmingly positive and, together with Aberdeen Inspired, we can be very proud of the great spirit that’s being fostered. Locals and visitors alike have played their part in bringing that Christmas cheer.

It’s important to acknowledge that the  festive period can also be a difficult time for many.

In particular, my thoughts and wishes are with the family of young Liam Smith. Liam, who is just 16 and a pupil at Westhill Academy, has been missing since 17 November and I cannot begin to imagine what family and friends are going through at this time. I’d urge anyone who may have information that could assist the search to get in touch with Police Scotland. Further details can be found here.

The police will continue to work tirelessly as they search for Liam and always face the most testing of circumstances with professionalism and wholehearted commitment.

As our own Council teams play their part in the city’s winter readiness in terms of road and pedestrian safety, with the gritter teams mobilised this week, it’s important we remember that the freezing conditions pose an even greater danger across the city in respect of those who are without shelter.  For one person to be facing winter in those circumstances is simply not acceptable in a modern, caring society – unfortunately the numbers are stark in Aberdeen and throughout the country. This weekend I’ll be joining the Council contingent, officers and elected members, for Sleep in the Park at Duthie Park – aiming to raise funds and awareness in the ongoing efforts to tackle homelessness across Scotland. It is a small gesture in acknowledgement of a significant issue and part of four simultaneous events taking place in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Food poverty is another issue to be addressed and thank you to everyone who contributed to the recent food drive by CFINE across Council premises. Stock levels remain low and your support is valuable – to find out more about ways to contribute visit the CFINE website.

I know we all take time to think of those less fortunate than ourselves at this time of year and it is always uplifting to see across the year the many ways in which so many colleagues play their part in making a positive difference to individuals and communities across the city.

We’ll continue to strive to make a difference throughout the Christmas period and into 2019 and I look forward to working alongside you to do that.

In the meantime, the very best of wishes for the festive season to you and yours from the directors and I.