Celebrating the next generation as successful Career Ready partnership continues

Friday was a day of celebration in different corners of the Council as we marked the contribution of a group of young people who have made a fantastic contribution to the organisation over the past four weeks.

Thirteen passionate and talented Career Ready interns have been lending their knowledge and ideas to our work since July 1 and they rounded off their month with us by taking part in activities to round-off their stay.

Each has had a tailored placement, based on their career ambitions, and has also had the opportunity to participate in workshops on subjects including compiling CVs, interview skills and presentation skills.

I must put on record my thanks to those students, who are drawn from S5 and S6, for their efforts during the internship – I’ve no doubt they have learnt from us just as we have learnt from them. It is always of great value to get insight from the next generation and they have been able to look at our services and business through a different lens.

Thanks also to each of the mentors from across Aberdeen City Council who have taken the class of 2019 under their wing. As a mentor myself, I found it incredibly rewarding and I’m hugely proud of the development I have seen in the intern I have partnered – she has really pushed to go outside of her comfort zone and that has been an inspiration to me as it should be to us all.

To give some background, the Career Ready programme is a national initiative supported by a growing range of employers. It is designed to give secondary pupils an opportunity to raise their aspirations and take the first steps on the path to rewarding futures.

Twelve schools from across the city and Shire have taken part in the current programme, including our own Harlaw Academy, Hazlehead Academy, Lochside Academy, Northfield Academy, Oldmachar Academy and St Machar Academy.

Looking ahead to the next wave of Career Ready students, we already have 10 Council mentors who have volunteered to take part and there are opportunities for more to get involved. If you are interested in finding out more, please take the time to talk to Alison Paterson in our People and Organisation team. Alison and the team have done a great job in coordinating our involvement.

From my own experience, I would certainly recommend taking part and I’d encourage everyone to consider mentoring.

The Career Ready initiative is part of the wider focus on the Developing the Young Workforce programme, which we have supported over a number of years now. The aim is to build on our reputation as an employer who engages, supports and enables young people to learn and develop skills, qualities and behaviours and in turn provide meaningful employment experience.

Our vision is for a city where all people can prosper and giving every young person in Aberdeen the opportunity to fulfil their potential is something we all have a part to play in, regardless of what area of the Council we work in. Our young people hold the key to the future of our communities, our city and our region. To be able to shine they have to be given the tools – and Career Ready is one of a number of ways we’re working to do that.

With school exam results just around the corner, it’s an opportune time to underline that fulfilling potential means different things for different people. Academic excellence is to be celebrated and we will always do that – but we should also be shouting just as loudly about positive destinations and the young people who are fulfilling ambitions in so many different ways and walks of life.

Friday’s Career Ready celebrations highlighted the brilliant potential we have here in Aberdeen and after the contribution of our interns I’m confident there’s lots to look forward to.

Videos shine a light on the stories behind our Star Award winners

In my post to announce the Star Awards results last month I spoke about my pride in our individuals and teams. Pride in the work we do every day of every week.

I thought it would be good to share the videos that were prepared for the awards, the work of students from North East Scotland College who volunteered their time, to tell the story behind the projects and initiatives that were recognised on the night.

Purpose, Pride, Team, Trust, Value – all of the guiding principle are in the spotlight and I think we can all take great inspiration from the achievements of our colleagues.

I’ll let the pictures speak louder than words, so a brief post to introduce the videos. Our thanks and appreciation go to the students for their creative efforts and of course to the stars of the screen from across the Council for taking part and helping to tell the stories that are worthy of sharing.

Rising Star

This award celebrates an individual who has shone in their new role in the Council.

Winner: Hataichanok (Jan) Saevanee.

Finalists: Jade Leyden; Emma Shanks.

Everyone knows Hataichanok as Jan and pretty much everyone that she supports at work makes a point of seeking out her chief officer to tell him how wonderful she is. Jan has an energy and positivity that infects everyone she works with. Jan came into the new Business Intelligence Unit (BIU), in mid-2018. Since then Jan has been an absolute star. One of the “big jobs” for BIU in 2018/19 was to start using a new tool (PowerBi). We would not have been able to do this without Jan. Some of us assumed she was an expert, but the truth is that she self-educated herself in her own time. She is now the Council’s “go to” person on PowerBi and is in very high demand.


Team of the Year

This award is for a team who have either achieved outstanding performance levels and customer satisfaction or worked in a focussed and unified way to deliver a desired objective for the Council and City.

Winner: Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership Learning Disability Team and the in-house services (Len Ironside Centre & ACCLDICS)

Finalists: Environmental Services Clean Up Aberdeen Team; Lochside Academy Support Staff Team.

The social work team work tirelessly to ensure the outcomes for people with disabilities are of the highest standards. They monitor adult support and protection referrals to ensure the safety of vulnerable people within the community while prioritising reviews and transitions to services for people and their families. They do this with professionalism, dedication and care. The Health team provide support by ensuring the right equipment is in place or a social story has been completed in order for a supported person to understand what is happening to ease the transition to a new home. Working closely together colleagues can identify a problem or difficulty and work quickly and efficiently because they work together for the best outcomes possible for everyone.


Improving Staff Experience

This award is for an individual or team whose behaviour creates a positive culture and enhances the experience of our staff.

Winner: Sean Ewing.

Finalists: Kay Johnston; Kittybrewster Catering team, Dorota Myszka and Marta Czajkowska.

Sean has proven outstanding leadership and resourcefulness within the Energy Team. Sean has arranged training, mentoring and development and always puts the wellbeing and morale of his team first. A joiner to trade, his knowledge in this area and many others across the Council is of tremendous value to the team.


Improving Customer Experience

This award is for an individual or team who has either demonstrated exceptional customer service or has enhanced how customers experience our services.

Winner: Digital Schools Admission Team.

Finalists: Care Management West Team; Jenny Rae.

Getting your child into school has been managed using paper forms for many years with the process which required many forms to be completed by parents/guardians. This year the team has transformed the staff and ‘customer’ experience with the launch of a digital admissions process. Parents/guardians can now apply for any school with a single online form for any term, and any year group throughout the year. All communications are generated instantly by email, with the process redesigned to gather evidence up front and highlight additional support needs earlier to enable better planning for the child’s education. The team included: Customer Development who led the initial business analysis, Education sponsored the project and ensured that outcomes were focused on Getting It Right For Every Child and the Legal Team ensured compliance with the Education Acts and governance.



The collaboration award is for individuals or teams who have demonstrated excellence in working together.

Winner: Bridge of Don Remembers.

Finalists: Leigh Houston (Airyhall Primary School); Rosemount Community Centre.

Bridge of Don Remembers was a collaboration between nine head or depute head teachers at schools in Bridge of Don, three local churches and the local branch of Legion Scotland. The project marked the centenary of the 1918 armistice. By working together, they increased the depth and richness of the project giving the children a greater learning experience and encouraged a whole community to get involved.


Improving Use of Resources

This award is for an individual or team that strive for best value, effectively managing their resources whilst still delivering outcomes.

Winner: Countryside Ranger Service.

Finalists: PEEP Project; Moira MacIver (Bucksburn Partnership).

The Countryside Rangers have a long history of having to deliver a lot of projects to improve the wildlife habitats of the Council’s fantastic 25 countryside sites totalling over 1200ha in area. To deliver the work needed for managing these sites volunteers have been key. The countryside rangers are constantly promoting the service and the benefits that volunteers can gain from it. In the last year volunteers have committed over 2140 hours of time (equivalent to more than 300 days) to help manage these sites.



This award recognises an individual or a team who have demonstrated an innovative approach and improved the way we do business. The award for Innovation was voted for during the award ceremony.

Winner: Daniel Shand and Norman Adams (Council Gardener’s blog).

Finalists: Elaine Buchan, Gemma Simpson, Hataichanok (Jan) Saevanee (Data Register); Angela Jane Hesketh (Employee mental health and wellbeing).

Daniel (council gardener) and Norman (videographer) have created a monthly gardening blog to inspire others to get into gardening and encourage people to visit Aberdeen’s beautiful parks and green spaces. The blog is also used to shine a light on all the different council services, Friends of groups, schools, community groups and charities, who all work tirelessly to make the city a great place to live and work. The blog is a great way of passing on expert advice from Daniel while Norman is also showcasing the knowledge and skill the Council has in creating video that engages with all ages.

Shining Star

This award is given for an individual who has reacted to a situation out with their role within the Council. A situation that required their involvement to ensure that a customer or a colleague was given the assistance they required in a very rare situation, to enable them to overcome difficulty or to recover from an event that has had a significant impact on their health.

Winner: Emily Snowdon.


People’s Champion

This award is for an individual or team who are an unsung hero and deserve recognition for the work they do and is chosen by the readers of the Evening Express.

Winner: Bill Esslemont (School crossing patroller, Woodside School)

Finalist: Steven Shaw.

Bill was nominated by the pupils and staff at Woodside Primary School for his work as their school crossing patroller. Over the years Bill has earned the respect of the children, as you can see from these quotes: “Bill can say hello or good morning in several languages and greets everyone by name and with a smile” and “Bill always makes sure we are safe and he even reminds me to bring my ukulele to school!”. Pupils always listen to him to ensure they are safe while walking to and from school. Bill also arrives early for work in the winter, to ensure the paths and crossing area are gritted properly before the children arrive.

Long service awards (40 years service to Aberdeen City Council)

Wilma Wallace, Malcolm Brown, Alison Simpson, Andrew Gaffron, Sandy Scott, Michael Johnston, William Milne, William Muir, Philip Roger, Lewis Shewan, Graham Shand.

Tribute to Councillor Sandy Stuart

We had some very sad news this week at the Council, with the passing of Councillor Sandy Stuart.

Many colleagues have been sharing memories of Cllr Stuart, from his work as a councillor and his passion for football as he was an ardent Tartan Army supporter.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time, and on behalf of the Council, I send my condolences to them.

Cllr Stuart was first elected in 2012, and was a well-liked and respected councillor throughout the whole of the organisation.

He was esteemed by both officers and fellow councillors, was a highly regarded member in the Council Chamber, and was very passionate about health and social care.

Cllr Stuart was city-educated and loved the city he lived in. He was educated at Hilton Junior School, Hilton Secondary, and then Aberdeen College. After school, he worked in his parents’ Donview Bar in the Bridge of Don, then became a plumber, a sales representative, and was also a taxi driver.

As mentioned before, he was a huge football fan and proud member of the Tartan Army, and his love of football translated into helping the community by carrying out a lot of work helping youngsters’ football teams.

He will be sadly missed, and will be remembered by many people throughout the Council for his hard work and dedication to the city.



Risk and reward as we face climate change challenges

In recent months climate change has been in sharp focus. Internationally and nationally the action has been high profile and locally we have seen groups, including pupils of city schools, raising awareness on our doorstep at Marischal College.

I’m always keen to listen to the messages coming through from our communities and we acknowledge that climate change is one of our biggest challenges.

The Council takes climate responsibilities seriously, seeking to address the risks and grasp the opportunities presented to us, our partners, residents and the city as a whole.

Referring back to our guiding principle on purpose, we are all linked by our aim to care for the city and people – but the ethos of one team, one council, one city is just a relevant when in relation to climate change.

It is a global issue that can’t be tackled by organisation alone, it needs collaborative action. A range of Council teams and city partners are already working together to reduce emissions and increase resilience to severe weather. It’s important we all take time to understand our role in this, both professionally and personally.

Aberdeen’s Local Outcome Improvement Plan aims to help tackle climate change, with targets to reduce carbon emissions by 42.5% by 2026 and to adapt to a changing climate. Helping to support this, it’s great to see proposals for partnership work to increase community resilience, progressing through the Sustainable City Group.

The Council led Aberdeen Adapts partnership project brings 41 organisations together to build understanding, look at the bigger picture and explore ways to work together to protect what matters in the city.

Severe weather events can have a huge impact on Aberdeen’s people and places. The development of Aberdeen Adapts has united community groups and organisations, aiming to bridge the gap between different sectors to improve city resilience to more frequent and intense weather extremes.

An important step forward is the launch of a consultation, open until 29 July, on the draft Aberdeen Adapts Climate Adaptation Framework, giving people an opportunity to give their views on the city approach to climate adaptation.

I’m encouraged to learn the development of Aberdeen Adapts involved young people, through Climate Ready Place workshops in three city schools. Giving young people the chance to find out about climate change in a local context and express their views on this important issue.

It is heartening to see the development of Aberdeen Adapts, as well as work to identify climate risks and adjust to climate impacts, recognised in an Aberdeen City Council case study featured in the new Scottish public sector guidance on climate adaptation, launched in May.

My thanks go to officers across council clusters who are currently contributing information for our Climate Change Report. This yearly report shows our progress with meeting climate change duties to reduce emissions, adapt and promote sustainability. It also highlights the many teams involved in helping to monitor, inform, shape and deliver our climate change actions.

We also welcome links with the University of Aberdeen this summer, through a student project looking at the effects of extreme weather on the Council. This work will bring opportunities for officers to learn more and get involved. Understanding the effects of extreme weather can help inform our early planning and interventions.

From small individual actions to major projects we can all play a role in helping to meet council commitments to climate change and to ensure we’re staying true to our purpose, protecting the people and place.

A postcard from Marischal College as holiday season looms

When the school bells sound tomorrow afternoon it will mark the end of not just the academic year but the start of a well-earned break for many colleagues from all across the Council as we enter holiday season.

It feels like a good time to say thank you to you all for your work over the course of another incredibly busy spell over spring and early summer.

I hope everyone who does have leave booked enjoys the time off and gets the opportunity to recharge the batteries. Of course, many will be working through the holidays and ensuring our services continue to run and those efforts are appreciated.

I’d like to make particular mention of all those involved in the Food and Fun initiative, both within our own teams and our partners Cfine, AFC Community Trust and Sport Aberdeen as well as volunteers from community groups. It is a real team effort.

The end of term is something so many of us look forward to, but for too many families it’s a time that creates added strain.

Food and Fun was introduced by the Council as a pilot to deliver free meals and activities to children in key areas of Aberdeen during school holiday periods and has been rolled out on a permanent basis. Over Christmas, as an extension of the project, special events were hosted for young people to enjoy the festivities – from ice skating and crafts to a disco and visit to Santa.

For everyone involved in Food and Fun there’s a busy period ahead, with a six-week summer holiday programme beginning on Monday. The main aim is to ensure children continue to be fed, recognising the importance of school meals during term time for a large number of families, and also to provide the opportunity to take part in physical activity in a nurturing environment.

The initiative has been recognised with awards – but the reward and motivation for the many people who have put their heart and soul into developing the programme is in the positive impact there is on children, families and communities.

When we talk about our purpose – about caring for our city and our people – I think Food and Fun is a shining example that we can all be incredibly proud of.

On the theme of the school holidays, for thousands of our young people the weeks ahead will also bring SQA results day. Once again, can I thank the teachers and school staff who guided pupils through the exams. Having served as a revision buddy for my son in the run-up to the exams, I know the hard work that has gone in on all sides and now the countdown to the big day is on.

There will be students who exceed their expectations and others who may not get the grades they hoped for – whatever the outcome, it’s reassuring to know that the same support that was so evident before the exams will be there from our school staff next month.

I had the pleasure of attending an awards ceremony at Orchard Brae School today with Steven Shaw and our Council Gardener Daniel Shand as various prizes were presented by our environmental team to recognise the contribution of pupils to a range of projects including Clean Up Aberdeen. It was a privilege to join pupils for the celebration. I am always bowled over by the warmth of the welcome at Orchard Brae and there were lots of proud pupils and staff as the achievements were recognised.


As you may be aware, it has been a difficult week for the school following the publication of a report by Education Scotland which highlighted several areas for improvement. A robust action plan is in place to address those issues and it has been heartening to see the way in which the school community and staff have come together with a focus on realising the ambitions we all hold for the school and pupils.

The determination to improve and ensure the best possible outcomes for all of the children we serve must never change and that applies to every school, nursery and educational setting in the city. Working to make things better and taking pride in that progress is embedded in the guiding principles and that is happening every day.

The Council and our arms length organisations have had lots of positive recognition in recent weeks, with Sport Aberdeen named as the winner in the Enterprising Communities category at the Elevator Awards last week.

Sport Aberdeen’s commitment to inspiring positive change in the communities it serves was praised, along with the inclusive approach to changing lives through sport and physical activity.

As a Council that is an ethos we have embraced in a number of different ways, including through bringing the Tour Series cycling – and next the Tour of Britain – to the north-east. The Tour Series was named Best Public Sector event at the events industry’s E Awards last month, the second major accolade this year for the City Growth team’s work on the Tour Series. Congratulations to everyone involved.

The Great Aberdeen Run is another example of the scale of event that has been attracted to the city and the countdown is on to this year’s date. We have free places available for Council staff keen to take part in this year’s run, on August 25, and further details can be found here. Good luck to everyone who is in training – and if you haven’t already, there’s still time to sign-up.

Whether you intend to spend the summer putting in the miles in preparation for the run or putting your feet up for some rest and relaxation, best wishes to everyone for the holiday period.

Paying tribute to a loved and valued colleague

As many friends and colleagues throughout the Council will be aware, the weekend brought the terribly sad news of the death of Alan Gray.

Many tributes to Alan and memories of his service to the city and the Council have been shared in recent days and his loss has been deeply felt by those who have worked closely with him and in all corners of the organisation.

On behalf of the council I send condolences to Alan’s family, friends and workmates at such a difficult time.

Alan, who had just started his 40th year of work, was a passionate member of our environmental team and having started his career as an apprentice gardener had built an incredible amount of knowledge and skill which he took into his role as Assistant Operations Manager and as a mentor to our young staff.

Based at Duthie Park, Alan was a leading light in Aberdeen’s success in Britain in Bloom, Keep Scotland Beautiful and many other national awards. Such was Alan’s reputation, he had risen to become a Britain in Bloom judge – testament to his expertise and dedication. I know there have been dozens of messages from Britain in Bloom officials from throughout the country expressing their condolences.

Those who had the pleasure of working alongside Alan speak fondly of a colleague who was valued in different ways and who took enormous pride in the wonderful parks and gardens he helped to shape and care for. That was certainly my experience of him too.

His brilliant sense of humour, heart of gold and supportive nature have also shone through when remembering Alan.

I was touched by the tribute prepared by colleagues, with the blessing of Alan’s family, and will leave the last word to those who knew Alan best: He was a gentle giant of a man and a giant among his colleagues who are very shocked and saddened by his passing. He will be sorely missed.


Alan Gray

Our pledge to Equally Safe at Work values

I am pleased to have added Aberdeen City Council’s support to the Equally Safe at Work initiative, joining our Co-Leaders in signing an important pledge on behalf of the organisation.

That commitment can be viewed in full here and underlines our role as an employer in advancing equality in the workplace and seeking to prevent violence against women.

Six other local authorities have joined the national pilot project and I hope it provides reassurance to staff that we are integral to this group.

It goes without saying that the aims are for us all to embrace and to hold dear – we’re one team, one council, one city.

As ever we cannot act alone and, particularly in relation to reducing violence against women, our collaborative work with partners, including Police Scotland, is vitally important. That extends beyond our own workforce and into every community across the city.

Signing the pledge is a positive step, but actions speak louder than words. Thank you in advance for your support in ensuring the Equally Safe at Work principles are a reality within the Council and the city.

Audit approval brings recognition of financial management

The approval of the Council’s annual audit report may not be a red letter day on everyone’s calendar, but for all those involved in the tireless work during the audit it marks a significant milestone.

Wednesday’s endorsement by the Audit, Risk and Scrutiny committee marked the end of a fast, efficient and successful piece of work by our own teams and the external auditors from KPMG. The report can be viewed in full here.

I’ve highlighted before the way accounting deadlines and processes have been moved forward and it was pleasing to see auditors noting the success of that accelerated programme in their report.

A great deal of planning and work has gone into stepping up the pace of reporting and my appreciation goes to all involved. As KPMG noted, completed draft accounts for 2018/19 were approved by the end of April – against a statutory deadline of June 30 for unaudited accounts. We’re leading the way among Scottish local authorities.

Of course it’s important to say auditors didn’t only praise the speed of delivery, they also highlighted the quality of the annual accounts. A great credit to Jonathan Belford and the finance cluster.

The Council’s approach to financial management was a focus of the report, with strong leadership and budgetary controls commended, and that will continue to be a foundation for us as we build for the future.

Members of the audit committee expressed their thanks to all of the staff who have been involved in the year end process, the endeavours are appreciated.

The financial challenges remain, but we can take pride in the way we are facing up to those and innovating in all areas of our business. The work being done by finance to evolve and push boundaries is a great example of that approach in action.