Pride in the achievements of our talented colleagues

To start the week on a really positive note, congratulations to colleagues from across our clusters for a run of success in April.

In Integrated Children’s and Family Services, Dyce Academy teacher John Naples-Campbell has been nominated in the Inspiration category of the Proud Scotland awards and has our best wishes as the final looms. To be shortlisted is a fantastic achievement, following on from John’s place in the top 10 educators in the country in the prestigious Times Educational Supplement Scotland annual listings for 2018.

He has rightly being recognised for his role in ensuring education is driving equality and empowering the LGBT+ community, with John’s passion shining through.

We have another final to look forward to In Operations and Protective Services, where Daniel Shand will be flying the Aberdeen City Council flag at the APSEs as a nominee in the Rising Star category. We’ll find out if Daniel, well known for his work on the Council Gardener  video blog and with a growing following, takes gold in May but he’s already guaranteed a silver award. A big congratulations to Daniel, who’s in the midst of an innovative project to teach primary pupils in Aberdeen the importance of growing fruit and vegetables.

With the help of a friendly bear Craster and his friend Bella the Honey Bee, Danny’s doing great work in our schools.

Craster and friends have been brought to life thanks to Daniel’s enthusiasm and the efforts of the External Communications team, with Laura McAra, Norman Adams and Paula Fullerton working on the animations and and Karen Allan continuing to promote the blog and expand its reach.

An educational pack is available for interested schools, containing everything you need to grow radishes, peas, carrots and onions and full instructions in the form of a series of short animations. You can get involved by emailing Daniel at projectcraster@aberdeencity.gov.uk and the animations can be viewed here.

Our Finance cluster is already award-winning – and they’ve hit an important milestone that may have gone unnoticed but deserves to be held up in lights.

The annual accounts have been closed down for 2018/19 and external auditors tell us we’re the first local authority across the whole of the UK to do so. It’s a fantastic achievement and testament to the systems, processes and sheer hard work for everyone in the team. As a self-confessed accounts anorak, I may no excuses for celebrating the achievement!

On the subject of teams and achievements, I must veer away from Aberdeen City Council briefly to draw attention to the exertions of our Scottish Fire and Rescue Service colleagues who have been responding to significant forest fires in the region. The efforts over a number of days at Knockando were impressive and vital in protecting people and place – a difficult job done in the usual efficient manner.

All very different updates to bring on a Monday morning, but there’s a common thread running through them all – pride.

We should all take great pride in the achievements not only of the workmates we work closely with, but of our public sector colleagues who share our goals for the places and people we serve.

The new guiding principles have pride at their heart and it’s a topic I’ll be touching on regularly in the weeks and months ahead through the blog.

In the meantime, congratulations once again for everyone involved in the successes mentioned above – great team efforts sit behind them all.

 

A marathon not a sprint in the race to the exam finish line!

The butterflies are fluttering in the stomach, the sleepless nights have started, fingernails are chewed – and that’s just the parents and teachers!

Exam time is upon us and it’s the culmination of years of hard work by pupils, teachers and all of our dedicated school staff alike.

Thanks to all who have got our thousands of city pupils to the start line – now it’s just the race to be run!

If like me you have children preparing to put their hard work to the test you’ll be well versed in the trials and tribulations of revision timetables and the sweat and toil of preparation.

We’ve all been through it ourselves and it’s easy to forget that there is a lot of pressure on young shoulders. As we always say at this time of year, all anyone can do is give it their best – whatever the results may be, there’s a long road ahead for every pupil and opportunities at every turn.

Good luck to all of the young people as the exams get into full flow and to the parents and carers who will be lending a guiding hand.

Taking time out to recognise the sacrifices of workers

On Friday at 11am you are invited to join a minute’s silence as part of the Council’s recognition of International Workers Memorial Day.

Introduced as a day of remembrance for those who have lost their life at work or suffered work related injury or illness, the day itself falls on Sunday (April 28) but we feel it is important to give employees the opportunity to pay their respects during office hours.

There will also be ceremonies at Duthie Park and Persley, on Friday and Sunday respectively, as part of the programme organised by trade unions in conjunction with Council colleagues.

The health, safety and wellbeing of every member of Aberdeen City Council staff is a priority and I’d urge everyone to use IWMD as an opportunity to reflect on how we can all play a positive role.

We have established processes and policies to ensure safe working environments – but those are built upon the vital input of each of us as individual members of staff and collectively as teams to maintain the highest standards. By being vigilant, diligent and conscientious we can make important contributions.

The public sector and private sector must strive to ensure Aberdeen is a place where workers are protected and where we can all take pride in a proactive approach.

This week’s programme is a timely reminder of those aims and an important opportunity for remembrance across the world.

Cycle accreditation and accountancy awards add up to success

As Council life gets back into full flow after the Easter school break in the city, it’s fantastic to be highlighting the latest good news stories.

The many colleagues who commute to work by bike will be pleased to know that we have been re-accredited as a Cycle Friendly Employer at Marischal College. The recognition may even tempt a few more to join the growing band.

Cycle Scotland have made the award after assessing facilities and have been very complimentary about the Council’s approach – with the inspection following on from Cycle Scotland’s grant which funded the improvements at Marischal, creating two-tier parking as well as a maintenance area and equipment.

Sustainable transport is a core part of our agenda as an authority and it’s fantastic to see so many staff making use of the improved facilities.

Staying on the good news theme, I must congratulate two of our finance colleagues for their recent success.

Accountancy graduate trainees Graeme Snape and Eve Bane (nee McIlroy) have both come through their final exams with flying colours and are in the process of gaining CIPFA member status.

Congratulations to both and also to Alan Simpson and his team in Strategic Place Planning for their work with Cycle Scotland.

Putting mental health at the top of the agenda

Earlier this year the Staff Governance Committee approved a Mental Health Action Plan for adoption by the Council.

It may not have grabbed the headlines in the way that some reports and decisions do – but it is every bit as important.

The focus of the plan is on ensuring that mental health is a priority for us all and that we continue to build a culture that encourages an open, inclusive and supportive attitude towards wellbeing.

Angela-Jane Hesketh has written an excellent blog post on the subject, following on from the work she and all those who have had an input in creating the plan have done.

It’s something that was raised directly with me, by staff members initially and also trade union representatives, and quickly took shape thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of colleagues from a variety of clusters, led by Organisational Design. I’m delighted to see something so important that has been driven by staff coming to fruition and that’s something we want to see more of in all parts of the Council.

Angela-Jane’s blog post is a really thought provoking read and this particular challenge from Angela-Jane jumps out from the screen:  “I ask you all to stand with me, let’s battle the stigma and get the conversation going, raise the awareness that we can only be our best selves if we start by looking after ourselves, mentally as well as physically.”

I echo those sentiments and I’m really keen to do all I can to support the team in promoting and implementing the plan.

At a time when our guiding principles and culture are being shaped, it’s heartening to see the mental health action plan gathering pace and underlining the caring ethos that we want to be running through our relationships with customers and colleagues.

That includes being open about the inevitable pressure that colleagues feel as our staff numbers contract.

I’m very conscious this is impacting on how people feel and the challenges they face day to day, something we have to manage together. The commitment to no compulsory redundancies that was reiterated by elected members at the budget meeting earlier this month means the reduction in posts is being managed through Voluntary Severance and Early Retirement. That is obviously reassuring for staff but I know it brings different worries in terms of covering the workload of those who choose to leave.

We can’t control the funding constraints we face or which areas of the Council colleagues will opt to leave from through VSER. What we can do is ensure we are innovative in how we deal with that, particularly through the digital technology we’re embracing to reduce the volume of manual work required. We must also continue to consider how we adjust our service levels to take into account the financial challenges, with a great deal of work being done around defining what we should and can provide as an organisation by creating commissioning intentions that will map that out in detail.

Turning back to the Mental Health Action Plan I’d encourage everyone to take time to familiarize themselves with it, read Angela-Jane’s blog post and give some thought to what the plan may mean for you and the colleagues around you.

As Angela-Jane points out, we would all know what to do if we cut our finger at work – but not necessarily where to turn if mental rather than physical health is the concern.

The adoption of the plan is a vital first step and my appreciation goes to everyone who has driven the project. It’s up to all of us now to help build the momentum and keep mental health at the top of the agenda.