A note of congratulations and thanks

It was one of the biggest weekends on Aberdeen’s calendar and it’s safe to say the city passed the test with flying colours.

Celebrate Aberdeen weekend and the staging of the Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run are fantastic adverts for the area and on Saturday and Sunday brought thousands of people together from near and far.

As well as wonderful occasions, both events are also significant logistical challenges for the many and varied Council teams involved in the planning and delivery of them.

A huge well done and thanks to everyone who played a part – from the City Events team and roads colleagues to the environment team and all in between. It’s a great example of cross-function working and the organisers of both events I know are hugely impressed by Aberdeen City Council’s significant contribution.

Staying on the theme of congratulations, I’m delighted to report that we can now boast the Scottish School Crossing Patroller of the Year. Peggy Ferries was rewarded for her dedication to her role at the Assist FM Awards in Glasgow last week.

It’s the second time in recent years that one of Aberdeen’s patrollers has been recognised, with Pearl Rendall winning in 2015.

We had three other finalists at the same ceremony, with John Mackland nominated for the School Janitor of the Year, the Harlaw Academy cleaning team for the FM Team of the Year and Diane Clark, the cook in charge at Westpark School, on the shortlist for a special recognition award.  We are very proud of all of the finalists, in the face of competition from all 32 Scottish local authorities.

There was good news too for the People and Organisation cluster, with confirmation of Investors in People Gold status. A power of work went in to gaining the accreditation, which reflects on the Council’s commitment to being the best employer it can be. People are the most valuable asset we have and Investors in People recognition is a very valuable endorsement.

To round-off the good news stories, the Strategic Place Planning cluster can take a bow after all of their efforts came to fruition with the agreement last week of the content of the proposed Strategic Development Plan for the city region by the Strategic Development Planning Authority. This will now go forward for ratification at full Council.

It is an incredibly complex piece of work, in conjunction with Aberdeenshire Council colleagues, but in simple terms is vital to the long term vision for the region. It shapes the future of the area and will support us in realising our ambitions for a prosperous Aberdeen City Region. The progress is a great credit to all involved and you will be hearing much more about the SDP in the weeks and months ahead – with a positive impact on all areas of Council operations.

Competitors flying the flag for the Council

It’s great to see the Council staff who have signed up for the Simplyhealth Great Aberdeen Run in the spotlight – can I pass on my thanks to all who will be lining up for the half marathon and 10k races.

Everyone’s motivation is different. I know we’ve got some serious athletes in our midst who will relish the competition, others are embracing the wellbeing benefits of getting active and many are taking on charity fundraising challenges. Hats off to all who are giving it a go.

The run showed last year that it brings together people from far and near, whether international visitors sampling Aberdeen for the first time or residents and staff alike who come together on what promises to once again be a great day out.

Good luck to our ACC runners and the thousands who will be testing themselves on the courses on August 26.

Staying with a sporting theme, congratulations to Bon Accord Bowling Association on reaching the final of the Andrew Hamilton Trophy in Ayr.

Andrew Hamilton became only the second Secretary of the Scottish Bowling Association, in 1895, and the trophy has become one of the most sought after in the game.

The team, already crowned the North Section winners, lost narrowly to West Lothian Bowling Association in a hard-fought match. The squad, which has strong representation from Aberdeen City Council, has had a fantastic season – well done to all involved.

Summer wishes to all at the Council

With the school holidays now in full swing, there’s no mistaking the feelgood factor the summer brings to the city.

On behalf of the leadership team, can I take the opportunity to wish all staff a good break if you have time booked off and to pass on my thanks to those working through the summer to cater for all those we serve.

We’re into peak season for so many of our teams, not least the grounds and parks staff who are catering for growing visitor numbers, and the events team which has had a flurry of activity with the success of the BP Big Screens evening at Duthie Park, the popular Armed Forces Day parade and now the build-up to the Great Aberdeen Run.

Of course, our services run 365 days a year and there’s never a lull in demand or activity, so July and August will continue to be hectic across the Council.

Best wishes to you for the summer, whatever the weeks ahead may bring.

Growing together – in lots of different ways!

There’s a growing theme to this week’s blog post, so it’s only right to start with a mention for our very own Council Gardener.

The video blog series is now in its third month and Daniel Shand is already attracting quite a following. If you haven’t caught up on June instalment yet, there are two parts available to view now.

Daniel’s doing a great job of showcasing the knowledge and skill we have within the Council, with apprentice James Graham sharing some tips in the latest video, and it’s a fantastic way of engaging with viewers and passing on expert advice.

We often talk about the need to grow the sense of civic pride in the city and the Council Gardener is just one of the many ways we’re doing that.

On Thursday the annual Glitter Pick showed that spirit in action – with 24 clean-ups in 24 locations over the course of 24-hours in Aberdeen.

Thanks to Steven Shaw and his team for coordinating such a massive operation as well as to all of those who volunteered to take part. There were more than 30 groups involved and it’s brilliant to see everyone working together as part of the wider aims of the Clean Up Aberdeen initiative.

As a Council we spend more than £4million a year on clearing litter alone – that is money that could be put to use in other areas if we can keep working in partnership to change habits and keep our streets and open spaces clear.

We’re fortunate in Aberdeen that our young people are driving that change, something that has been recognised nationally.

Earlier in the month pupils and teachers from Hanover Street School travelled to London to be crowned UK champions of the Better Energy School Awards. It’s a huge honour for all those involved and my congratulations go to head teacher Alan Markey and teacher Elizabeth Elrick as well as all of the pupils in the group, who I know are very proud of the achievement.

The project went under the banner HSS Flying Eco Pigs Change the World! – and not surprisingly captured the imagination of judges.

Pupils learned about a range of environmental issues, from single use plastics to problems posed by discarded chewing gum on the streets of Aberdeen, and set about tackling them.

They created papier-mache pigs with eco messages on their wings that were awarded to local shopkeepers, cafe and bar owners who agreed to stop providing plastic single use items.

I’m told the Eco Pigs went far and wide – even reaching Sir David Attenborough, who sent a personal letter of thanks for the work Hanover Street is doing to protect the environment.

Young people are growing up with a better understanding of the issues the world is facing and a real passion to make positive changes – it’s fantastic that is being rewarded.

Great support for first Career Opportunities Information Day

Thank you to all who took time out to attend the inaugural Career Opportunities Information Day this week and to the team from People and Organisation who organised the successful event.

Hosted in the Town and County Hall on Wednesday, there was great support from throughout the Council from colleagues interested in expanding their skills or finding out more about career development opportunities with the Council and partners.

We were joined by Bon Accord Care and the Aberdeen Sports Village, Cornerstone, NHS Grampian, Scottish Fire and Rescue and Police Scotland as well as Skills Development Scotland, NESCOL and the University of Aberdeen.

There was a lot of positivity in the room, with a variety of Council teams on hand to offer guidance and support – not just our People and Organisation specialists but representatives also from internal teams that are actively recruiting and offering re-training opportunities in areas including teaching, early years and HGV driving.

I know there has been some really positive feedback and I’m sure everyone who joined on the day will have benefited. We will be looking to arrange similar events in future and will give consideration to timings to ensure as many people as possible can attend.

As I mentioned prior to the event, and I think it worth repeating, we’re committed to helping our people realise their potential and there continue to be great opportunities both with the Council and our partners. Over the weeks and months ahead we’ll continue to share details throughout the organisation.

Success on the awards stage – and the bowling green!

On the back of the positivity around our own Star Awards, there’s more success to celebrate this week.

Aberdeen came away from the Tenant Information Service’s annual ceremony with a hat-trick of prizes and was a finalist in two further categories, which is fantastic national recognition.

As a landlord to tens of thousands of people – with 22,000 rental properties in the city – our innovation in tenant engagement and support is one of the most important elements of our day to day work.

The TIS presented Aberdeen City Council with the Danny Mullen Award, presented to the Organisation of the Year. It is the first time we have been honoured in this way and it means an enormous amount to the Council but most importantly our housing teams.

The criteria focuses on innovation in housing, with a particular emphasis on tenant participation. Our staff, elected members and, most importantly, tenants have embraced this in recent years and clearly judges recognise the great strides that have been taken.

This is underlined by Carol Hannaford, Development Officer for Tenant and Resident Participation, being crowned Tenant Participation Champion of the Year by the TIS. It’s a fantastic achievement by Carol and recognises the contribution she and her team have made in improving services by putting tenants at the heart of our approach.

The third award for Aberdeen on the evening went not to the Council but to one of our tenants – which is particularly fitting, given the approach we have adopted. Norma Groves won the Frances Nelson MBE Award for Tenant of the Year. The prize is a tribute to the dedication and commitment Norma makes to improving the lives of others in her community and the example she sets. It is the second consecutive year an Aberdeen tenant has been honoured, with Paul McMenemy the 2017 recipient.

Congratulations to Norma, Carol and all the many staff and tenants who work so hard all year round.

From the awards stage to the bowling green, there has been success for colleagues on the sporting front.

The Meff Spence Trophy was contested at Broughty Bowling Club between hosts City of Dundee and Bon Accord Bowling Association – with both squads featuring strong representation from Council staff. Bon Accord came through to win 148-107 and bring the trophy back to Aberdeen. Well done to all who played on the day.

Congratulations to our Star Awards finalists and winners

Last night the Star Awards winners for 2018 were crowned and it was inspiring evening at the Beach Ballroom as we recognised colleagues from across the Council.

Can I firstly congratulate all of our finalists – to be shortlisted is a fantastic achievement, with nominations this year as strong as ever.

Our winners deserved their time in the spotlight and my congratulations to all of those who came away with a coveted Star Award.

The 2018 roll of honour is:

Improving Staff Experience – Lynn Scanlon;

Collaboration – Marchburn and Oldtown Working Group;

Improving Use of Resources – Heathryfold Park Building Project;

Innovation – Will Burnish, flooding and coastal operations;

Rising Star – Graeme Baird;

People’s Champion – Ian Geddes;

Improving Customer Experience –  Grace Shanks;

Team of the Year – Environmental Services, Aberdeen In Bloom team;

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Special mention to Gordon McDade and the hard-working organising group who pulled the whole event together from start to finish as well as everyone who played their part – from our MCs on the night to sponsors, judges and everyone in between. It was a real team effort.

The Star Awards allow us to come together to celebrate not just the award wins and finalists but all the amazing work that has been done over the past year.

Not everyone can win a Star Award – but every single one of us within the Council should take a real sense of pride in this organisation. As Chief Executive I’m certainly proud of our people and proud of the way we deliver for everyone we serve in the city.

When you take a step back and consider all of the ways Aberdeen City Council touches the lives of residents and visitors, not to mention the impact we have on businesses and the third sector, it is quite incredible. Every individual member of staff, every team, every cluster and function is working day in and day out to make a difference.

We don’t often take the time to acknowledge all of the great things that you do as staff. I made reference last night to modesty being a very admirable Aberdonian quality. Often I hear things being spoken about as ‘Business as Usual’. In actual fact, so often what you do is extraordinary and I’m delighted we are able to recognise just some of those contributions through the Star Awards.

I never fail to come away from the Star Awards feeling energised by the efforts of colleagues – not to mention humbled by the selflessness that shines through time and time again. Last night was no exception.

Once again my congratulations go to our winners and finalists any my thanks to everyone who played a part, from nominating and judging through to organising and entertaining.


A huge congratulations to Big Noise

Everyone loves a birthday party – and last week I had the real pleasure of attending a very special one at Torry Academy.

Big Noise Torry held a celebration to mark its third birthday and 10 years of Big Noise across Scotland.

Hosted by Sistema, the fantastic organisation behind the project, the young musicians were the stars of the show. So much positive energy,  so much talent on display and so many big, big smiles to go with the Big Noise.

The Council has invested significant funds in bringing Big Noise Torry to life – but the benefits to the community make that a very worthwhile investment.

It isn’t just about the children, who gain massively from the programme, but also about engaging with parents, carers, grandparents, volunteers, teachers, tutors and many more. The adults didn’t disappoint with their very own performance and it was an afternoon full of warmth and laughter.

Last week’s birthday concert showed the community spirit around Big Noise Torry in great style and I must thank Jenny Cranna and everyone at Torry Academy for hosting the programme over the years and the celebration.

Thanks also go to all of the non-school staff who make the project the success it is – not to mention the team at Sistema, who have taken Aberdeen to heart as much as Aberdeen has embraced Big Noise.

The sun is shining – the Tour Series must be in town!

When the Tour Series cycling rolled into Aberdeen for the first time last year it was greeted by glorious sunshine. With footage being broadcast around the world, the city really sparkled.

Yesterday the event returned – and once again the weather had read the script.

Local youngsters and amateur cyclists tackled the course before the professionals took centre stage and there was a great response from the public.

As part of our growing Aberdeen 365 events programme, the Tour Series has been a great boost to the city and the region and we’re delighted to have welcomed it once again.

Any event is a partnership and it was fantastic to hear the race director praising Aberdeen and the Council for the way it has embraced elite cycling. When interviewed for a TV preview, Mick Bennett said in 35 years of organising events he had never known a host town or city take a race to its heart so enthusiastically and said the way in which Aberdeen City Council has supported the Tour Series was the best he had experienced in all that time.

That ringing endorsement is fantastic credit to all involved in planning and delivering an action packed day. I echo Mick’s sentiments and my thanks go to the Tour Series team and, most importantly, our own Council staff for their excellent work in bringing the city to life in such a colourful and inspiring way.

Striving to be the best Corporate Parents we can be

A recent training event helped put in sharp focus the role we all play as employees of a local authority – and underlined some of the most important aspects of the work Aberdeen City Council does day in and day out.

I came away with some very powerful and positive messages from the Corporate Parenting session I attended.

The concept is evolving, but essentially covers our duty as an organisation to work together with partners to meet the needs of looked after children, young people and care leavers.

As a Council our aspirations for those young people should be no different from those as any good parent. We embrace the responsibility and make the needs of the individuals a priority – and every single member of staff should be aware of that duty of care and see it as an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of young people.

As part of the training, Laura Beveridge’s brilliant TEDx Talk  was used – I’d urge everyone to take 10 minutes out of what I know are busy days to watch this. It’s emotive, incredibly honest and thought provoking.

Laura describes herself as one of the lucky ones, having come through care and built a successful career and life.

Some of the statistics she uses are eye opening. Care experienced people are more likely to go to prison than university, 50% leave care with a mental health issue and care experienced people are 20 times more likely to die before the age of 25.

The questioned posed in the presentation is: Can you imagine if those facts and figures related to your child?

To take that further on a very basic level, can you imagine if your child, grandchild, niece or nephew didn’t receive a card or gift on their birthday? Imagine if they didn’t get the chance to play games or do all the things so many young people would take for granted.

We wouldn’t want that for the children in our lives and nor would we want that for the looked after children, young people and care leavers in our role as Corporate Parents.

I came away from last week’s session with thoughts on how we as a Council can be better Corporate Parents and I’d love to hear your views on that. The Ideas Hub is there as a platform to share suggestions and I’m sure it is a topic that would spark lively debate and discussion.

What could be done in your area of the Council to make a difference?

Great strides are already being made and we are so fortunate to have colleagues with the passion and expertise required to drive forward with improvements. I’m appreciative of the work already done and the plans for the future.

Parents strive to do better every day – and as Corporate Parents we are no different.