Transition to the Target Operating Model

Earlier this month every employee of the Council received a letter confirming their place in the structure as part of the transition to the Target Operating Model (TOM).

Further to the letter that I issued, the next phase in the move towards the TOM relates to the reduction in posts agreed by the Strategic Transformation Committee in February and in line with the areas for change identified by Directors, Chief Officers and Managers. As communicated previously, the political priority of the Administration is to avoid compulsory redundancies and that underpins the approach to the transition.

Those who may be impacted by this workforce change have been invited to meetings to notify them of the proposals and will receive an explanation of the consultation process with the Trade Unions and individual staff, who will have the opportunity to consider the rationale and make their own representations.

The Union consultations will run from 17-30 April and individual consultations over the first two weeks of May. Taking into account the responses, a formal decision will then be made on each of the affected posts.

Anyone who is displaced from their current post will be assisted in identifying opportunities for redeployment to an alternative role in which existing skills and knowledge can be utilised or in exploring retraining options.

This is a difficult time not only for those affected directly but also for colleagues and Managers. I have made clear my commitment to managing this process in a sensitive, compassionate and respectful manner and appreciate the support of everyone in the Council in ensuring that.

Members of staff being consulted with in relation to post reductions are being given details of the next steps as well as the support on offer to them during meetings taking place today and through the course of the week. There will understandably be many questions arising as well as concerns and it is vital that colleagues affected have access to information and advice.

The change we are going through as an organisation is not easy – but it is essential. As we work towards the aim of building a leaner Council which is more efficient in the way it meets the needs of those it serves and realises our ambitions for the city as a whole, I am very mindful of the duty of care we have to all employees.

Minimising the potential impact on individual members of staff is my priority and this shared by Directors and Chief Officers.

Congratulations on national award win

Congratulations to our Democratic Services staff for their success in being crowned Administrator Team of the Year winners in the SOLAR annual awards on Thursday evening.

Run by the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland, the 2018 shortlist in the category included Aberdeenshire Council as well as Argyll and Bute Council.

Everyone at Aberdeen City Council is well aware of the enormous amount of work that has been done by our skilled and dedicated team and clearly the SOLAR judges recognised that too.

The review of the governance framework and scheme of governance in addition to work in areas  such as the move to paperlight meetings, establishing the Member/Officer Relations Protocol and redesign of the ALEO Assurance Hub were all part of the award winning package.

There’s always strong competition for national awards and to be presented with the prize is fantastic reward for the team and for the Council as a whole. Well done and thank you to the whole team.

Delivering on our 2018/19 budget commitments

On Tuesday (6 March) elected members gathered to set the 2018/19 budget.

As I stated in my note when the budget reports were published last week, the process represents a great challenge for the leadership team and elected members in light of the financial constraints we face and the increasing demand for our services.

A budgeted spend of over £950million, comprising £269m capital and £689m revenue expenditure, was agreed as we set a balanced budget in which projected spending must be matched by income. It’s a rigorous and complex process involving not only the finance team but officers from across the Council and the way the task is completed is a great credit to all involved.

Full decisions from yesterday’s meeting will be published in the Council and Democracy section of our website on Monday and a round-up has also been posted to the news section to provide an outline of the key aspects of the budget. It is certainly worth familiarising yourself with that detail as the budget decisions link directly to the Local Outcome Improvement Plan and our overarching aims as a Council.

With the budget set our task as officers is to continue delivering in these key areas.

As I stated previously, the transition to the Target Operating Model (TOM) was at the heart of the 2018/19 budget, accounting for £17.1m of identified savings.

It should be stressed these are the savings already communicated –  comprising £737,000 from the asset review, £6m in relation to third party spend and £10.378m through voluntary severance, early retirement and the dis-establishment of vacant posts.

I have been instructed by Council to write to staff to reiterate the administration’s commitment to managing the reduction in posts through voluntary measures. That formal communication will follow shortly to every employee.

The £17.1m figure demonstrates the importance of the journey we are on and underlines the purpose of the change we are undertaking – with efficiency in operations enhancing customer experience and financial efficiencies ensuring resources are directed towards protecting frontline services.

Councillors agreed a number of other measures in terms of expenditure and income, which included a 3% increase in Council Tax. I appreciate a large number of staff are residents of the city, so this rise will have a direct impact. It was not an easy decision for members, but a necessary one as we strive to meet our funding requirements.

I thank all who played their part in the budget process and indeed those who were involved in Monday’s meeting of full Council, in which the governance structure supporting the TOM was agreed. There will be further detailed communication to outline those important changes.

With Council followed by the budget meeting it was a busy but productive start to the week and a great deal of hard work went in to ensure business ran smoothly.

As we prepare for another financial year I look forward to working with you to deliver on behalf of all those we serve.

Transition to Target Operating Model

Following Friday’s meeting of the Strategic Transformation Committee (STC), I am now able to share with you the detail of the report on the transition to the Target Operating Model (TOM) which was considered in the private section of Friday’s meeting. The report can be found online here as the second additional circulation.

As a result of the regulatory framework we work under following the bond issue in 2016, the Council was required to first notify the London Stock Exchange of the detail of the report on the transition to the TOM and that was done this morning. Following that notification, I am now in a position to provide you with the same information.

On Friday the STC gave its approval for the next stage in the transition to the interim functional structure.

The decision by members of the committee included approval for recommendations to allow for a reduction by up to 230 full time equivalent (FTE) posts. An additional 140 FTE posts which are currently vacant and not required within the TOM will also be disestablished.

Posts have been identified as opportunities for change and in-scope for change as a result of teams coming together in the new interim structure. This may mean there are too many roles within a new team for the required service delivery.

The reduction in posts together with the dis-establishment of current vacant posts is expected to realise £10.378million in savings in 2018/19 and it is hoped these savings can be achieved through voluntary means.

We will manage the reduction in posts in as sensitive and understanding way as we can. Communication will be central in managing this process and as opportunities for change are identified, employees will be involved through both engagement and consultation.

Trade Union representatives are being briefed this morning, including information on the timeline for consultation.

It is planned that during the rest of February the Council establishes the extent of FTE post reduction that can be achieved through further disestablishment of vacant posts, agency worker relationships, secondments and non-renewal of fixed term contracts.  The Council is also committed to using VSER subject to the operational needs of the Council and budgetary constraints. This will include reconsideration of previously non-supported VSER applications.

The position will be reviewed at the end of February in advance of the new organisational structures for the affected areas being presented to the Transformation Delivery Boards and the Transformation Management Board.

As new organisational structures are adopted the Council will seek to implement those new structures including FTE post reduction throughout March.  At the moment these are simply indicative time frames which are subject to change depending on the outcome of consultation meetings and logistical considerations.

Members of the Extended Corporate Management Team and Third Tier managers have been asked to attend a meeting today to ensure they are aware of the process we are following. I would urge anyone with specific questions or concerns to raise them through their manager in the first instance.

I appreciate the uncertainty many will feel in relation to the transition to the TOM and I would ask everyone to be mindful of that and to be supportive to colleagues.

Whilst the reduction in posts will understandably be a focus of attention, Friday’s report included wider information that I would urge everyone to read to gain a greater understanding of the rationale being used.

You will, of course, be interested in what the transition to the interim functional structure means for you individually in terms of your role, responsibilities and ways of working – staff will be fully informed and involved through the implementation stages. All cost centres, services and staff posts have already been aligned to the appropriate function on paper and plans for how everyone will be re-aligned and begin to work are currently being developed.

It is important to note there will continue to be opportunities to fill vacancies for posts at the heart of the TOM, many of which will appeal to existing Aberdeen City Council employees keen to utilise existing skills or to explore options for retraining.

As I have stressed in the engagement sessions we have held and at various intervals in recent months, whilst we are committed to change and to our ambitions to build the Council of the future there is also a sincere will to be inclusive and respectful of all staff during this journey.

Once again, I thank you for your support and the valuable input there has been to date. The contribution of our employees will continue to be essential as we shape the journey. we are on as an organisation.

Success stories to round off the week

It’s important we celebrate the success that we enjoy as individuals, teams and a Council as a whole. In the past fortnight there’s been plenty to shout about!

We have been informed Aberdeen City Council will be represented in not one but two categories in the finals of the Scottish Legal Awards.

The Planning and Environment Team from Legal Services is shortlisted in the Government Legal Team category – facing competition from colleagues at Aberdeenshire Council and from the Scottish Government.  Arlene Dunbar will also be flying the flag for the Council in the Paralegal of the Year category, nominated alongside five representatives from private practice.

I wish both the team and Arlene well for the ceremony in March – but to reach the final is a fantastic achievement in itself.

Before then, we have three members of staff shortlisted in the APSE Scottish Apprentice of the Year Awards. Presented in February, being selected as finalists is great recognition of the individuals and of those who have trained and nurtured them. Congratulations to Graeme Baird, Craig Paterson and David Hutcheon for earning their place on the shortlist.

At the end of last week, I watched with pride as pupils and teachers representing two city schools took centre stage at the Young Engineers and Science Clubs Scotland awards run by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

The Torry Academy and Kingswells School teams collected the North East Young Engineers Club of the Year prizes in the secondary and primary categories respectively.  STEM subjects will be crucial to a bright future for the city and it was great to see youngsters being recognised for excelling. I can’t praise the young people and teachers enough for their commitment and enthusiasm.

We also received news from the Big Lottery Fund that we have progressed to the next round of the Early Action System Change application process – another step towards securing vital funding to address the needs of young people in Aberdeen.  The work done by our partners in relation to this bid, particularly the Foyer, is very much appreciated.

Staying with the theme of young people, the work that our Virtual School has been doing in the city to support our looked after children has been recognised nationally by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS). Our innovation will be built upon to inform policy and guidance for authorities across Scotland.

Finally, I would like to say well done to members support assistant Lee Green – who has successfully gained his ECDL qualification, achieving a 100% pass rate.

Congratulations to Lee and to all who have brightened up January with their achievements. I’m sure there will be much more to celebrate in the year ahead.

Update on director recruitment

This week we have been conducting the final stage of the director recruitment process. After a busy and productive five days I can provide a positive update on progress.

I am pleased to say a preferred candidate has been identified for each of the four roles: Chief Operating Officer; Director of Resources; Director of Customer Services; Director of Commissioning.

The four appointments are subject to the usual pre-employment checks and due diligence, a process which began as soon as the preferred candidates were identified by the appointments panel earlier today.

Once that process has concluded, we will be in a position to provide further information to elected members, staff and the public on what are significant appointments for Aberdeen City Council and the city as a whole.

I look forward to sharing further news on the director appointments in due course.

Make your voice heard

With the consultation on the next phase of transformation now underway, I cannot stress enough how important it is you take this opportunity to have your say.

The Interim Functional Structure can be found here and there is an accompanying link to submit feedback.

We have already had a strong response to the engagement events held around the Target Operating Model and my hope is that we will continue to see this input grow from all areas of the organisation.

Please do take the time to consider the latest material and to play your part in shaping the way this moves forward.

All comments we receive through the feedback channels will be recorded, analysed and included as part of the final proposal for an Interim Functional Structure that will go to Full Council in December.

It is encouraging that I have already been answering very pertinent questions, showing that people are really drilling down into the detail and building an understanding of the process we are undertaking. The consultation period is a platform for every individual to make their voice heard.


Award Winner!

A short note to share with you the considerable achievements of our colleague Graeme Baird who was recently crowned APSE UK Apprentice of the Year for 2017.

Prior to this most recent accolade Graeme has won:


  • Best 1st Year Electrical Installation Apprentice at Tullos Training
  • Best SECTT (Scottish Electrical Charitable Trianing Trust) Apprentice Grampian Area


  • APSE Scottish Apprentice of the Year Winner
  • North of Scotland Trades Awards, Apprentice of the Year, Highly Commended
  • Best 2nd Year Electrical Installation Apprentice at Tullos Training
  • Best SECTT Apprentice Grampian Area
  • APSE UK Apprentice of the Year, Finalist


  • APSE Scottish Apprentice of the Year 2016, Winner


  • APSE Scottish Apprentice of the Year 2017, Winner

A fantastic record of success, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Building the Council of the Future

How time flies…. we’re now four weeks into the Building the Council of the Future events and more than 1800 colleagues have attended so far.

A huge thank you to those who have put forward views, ideas and questions at the events.  All of the feedback will be invaluable as we start to put together plans to push ahead with the Transformation Programme.

For those of you who have yet to attend an event, don’t worry – there’s plenty more being arranged.  These events will be a constant feature of the Transformation Programme and will change to make sure we get input at every stage depending on what’s happening.

And there are many other ways for you to keep-to-date or get involved.

In the last few weeks, the Transformation Zone has been launched as a space where you can all get information, news and updates about Transformation.  More importantly, there are many opportunities through this site to ask questions or submit comments and ideas on the information.  If you didn’t traditionally have access to The Zone, desktop computers are being fitted into all Council locations where you can get onto the intranet.

You may be interested in seeing some of the feedback that we’ve had from staff so far – on the site there’s a video clip featuring highlights of the conversations that happened.

If you want to help with communications and engagement or play a role in supporting your teams as we move through change – why not become an Employee Rep?  There’s more information on the Employee Rep Network on the Transformation Zone.

Another first over the last few weeks, was the first meeting of the Strategic Transformation Committee.  A bulletin capturing news from the Committee is also featured on the site.  As is the first edition of the Staff Guide to Transformation – October’s edition is all about our need to change and the Target Operating Model.  Each month will include different features as we go through Transformation.

So, if you haven’t already – please make sure to take advantage of the communications tools that are available and sign up to one of the events.  I’m keen to hear from you….

Check out the latest news section of the Transformation Zone. 


A huge welcome to the many delegates in the City this week for Offshore Europe at AECC.

What I’m sure will be a hugely successful week is the culmination of many months of work by many colleagues within the Council working closely with partners and other agencies both to bring the event to Aberdeen and to show off the City to our visitors.

Thank you to everyone involved.