SPECTRA puts Aberdeen in the spotlight

The feel-good factor around SPECTRA 18 won’t have passed you by I’m sure – the reaction to this year’s event has been fantastic.

The figures show more than 91,000 visits across the three sites over the four days, significantly up on last year.

As is so often the case, the statistics tell only a small part of the tale. The wonderful pictures, amazing feedback and goodwill towards the event add the real colour to the story.

SPECTRA helps put Aberdeen on the map internationally with the calibre of artists it attracts, helping to draw in visitors from far and near, but it also brings people together from all corners of the city and generated a real buzz amongst residents and businesses alike.

What began as an idea has grown to become the success we all recognise – and that success just wouldn’t be possible without the endeavours and efforts of colleagues from a number of teams, not least City Events and culture.

Our valued partners, including Curated Place to name just one, share in the praise for the delivery of what is one of Scotland’s most dynamic events.

It is a credit to all involved that this year’s event was bigger and better than ever before and that the high bar set previously was surpassed.

On behalf of the Council and the tens of thousands who braved the winter chill to enjoy all that SPECTRA had to offer, my thanks go out to all those involved.

Preparation is key to responding in times of crisis

We often talk about the Council’s purpose of ensuring people, place and economy prosper. That role is central to our daily business and it is right that we promote it – but what we must ensure is that the conversation about the other vital elements of our purpose is heard just as loudly.

Wherever possible we seek to protect people and place from harm.

We are, however, faced with events outside of our control and unfortunately harm to does occur – we see that far too regularly. In these challenging situations Aberdeen City Council is relied upon to respond, rescue and recover.

Experience shows that when called upon we are capable of doing so in ways which put the commitment, professionalism and expertise of our staff in sharp focus. Our response in times of crisis has been a source of great pride for me in my role as chief executive.

What we cannot do is stand still – and nor can we work in isolation.

Training and development in conjunction with our colleagues in the emergency services, neighbouring local authorities and other public sector bodies is crucial and it’s pleasing to see that gathering pace.

In recent weeks I joined an emergency planning exercise in Aberdeen, where the collaborative approach was put into action. It was particularly useful for our own Duty Emergency Response Coordinators (DERCs).

The scenarios for these exercises vary – we have to plan for every eventuality – but the common thread is the aim of improving the way we work together to respond on behalf of the individuals and communities we serve. Learning lessons from these exercises, and of course from the live incidents we deal with, is essential.

It’s important to add that communities are key to how we plan. It’s recognised quite often it will be groups and individuals in the areas affected who respond first, but we have to make sure we give them the support to do so as part of a joined-up approach.

The most recent session provoked interesting discussion and action points and my thanks go to all staff and representatives from our partners who took part in the day.

Remembering a community stalwart

It was with great sadness that we heard that Meg Ross, our crossing patroller from Quarryhill School, passed away just before Christmas.

Meg had safely crossed generations of children on their way to and from Quarryhill for the past 24-years and was a highly regarded member of the school family.

Meg will be greatly missed by all the pupils, parents and staff from Quarryhill School and in the wider Northfield community. Our thoughts are with Meg’s family at this sad time.

Festive wishes to all

Can I take the opportunity to pass on season’s greetings to all colleagues for the festive season – I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas and New Year.

Whilst many are preparing for a break over the holiday period, there are a great number of Council employees who will be working throughout the next few weeks in a huge variety of roles. My thanks go to all of those involved, the efforts and dedication really are appreciated not only by the management team and I but also by those residents and businesses we serve.

My thanks also go to Scott Cumming from the design and marketing team for creating our animated digital Christmas card which has been sent near and far.


It has been another incredibly busy but productive year for Aberdeen City Council. There have been wonderful achievements, not to mention great challenges. The professionalism and commitment of our staff is what makes those achievements possible and enables us to meet the challenges.

On a final note, as thoughts turn to 2018 and resolutions it is the ideal time to share those prepared by our Imagineers – children who represent Aberdeen’s future and who have some very simple asks of us all as adults in the New Year. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a thought provoking list.

Best wishes to you and your family and my thanks in advance for your continued support in the year ahead.


Aberdeen primed to respond to winter weather

As winter begins to bite, it’s an appropriate time to make mention of the great planning and preparation behind the city’s response to the worst of the elements.

A stockpile of 11,726 tonnes of salt is in place and a well-drilled team of 90 staff ready to swing into action and deliver on a commitment to treat almost half of the city’s roads before 7.30am. Last week’s flurry of snow and ice gave an idea of what is to come and the efficient way in which we’ll respond.

The 2017/18 winter maintenance campaign was launched last month, including details of the plans to treat pavements and cycle paths.

We have 560 miles of roads in the city and keeping traffic moving 24/7 is a real challenge when the Scottish winter really kicks-in. Our teams keep a close eye on the long and short-term forecasts and it is a sophisticated approach.

I’ve got enormous respect for all those who work on our teams in some of the harshest conditions imaginable each year and I take great reassurance from the experience and skills that we call upon.

In advance of the operation getting into full flow, my thanks go to all those involved, Of course we may get a lovely mild winter and last week’s cold snap was just a blip – but I wouldn’t be shouting that prediction from the rooftops! Instead we’ll prepare for the worst and hope for the best, with the knowledge that the Council is primed and ready to respond.

New website and digital partnership mark positive steps towards the council of the future

The new Aberdeen City Council external website was successfully launched today and I’d urge everyone to take five minutes to familiarise themselves with it.

The cleaner design and more intuitive navigation are the first things that stand out – but there’s also additional functionality and the ability to use the site as the platform for what will be a growing digital presence, giving customers the ability to carry out their business online.

Launch day represents crossing the finish line for the hard working team which has been driving the project behind the scenes, perfecting not only the look and feel as well as the technical detail but also the thousands of pages of content which had to be reviewed and updated before being migrated to the new site. I’d like to thank them for delivering something we can all be proud of.

What it’s important to acknowledge is although we’re across that finish line I mentioned in terms of the site launch, we’re just at the start of the next leg of the journey. The website will continue to evolve and develop, particularly in terms of functionality – so there’s no suggestion this is the finished article, but a fantastic foundation to build from.

It has been an important week for the Council, with the site launch following on from the conclusion on Monday of the process to appointment a digital partner to support our ambitions for the future.

North-east company Incremental and international specialists PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) will begin to work with all of us as we continue to improve services for our customers.

This digital partnership is important to Aberdeen residents and businesses, our public sector partners and, of course, staff.

Click through to the Transformation Zone to find out more about the digital partnership, with more information to follow over the coming days and weeks.

A very special weekend for the city

The days ahead will be a great celebration as Denis Law receives the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen.

As a sporting star recognised across the world and true ambassador for the many charitable causes he supports, Denis is deserving of the highest honour which the city can bestow upon him.

It will be an honour to be part of the conferral ceremony on Saturday and Sunday’s parade will bring Aberdeen together to celebrate. I’m sure there will be lots of familiar faces from our own staff out to join in.

Before we embark on a hectic weekend, my thanks go to the many people within Aberdeen City Council who have worked so hard to make the Freedom events special.

Planning has been going on for several months and, given the history and traditions underpinning the occasion, it is a complex and intricate piece of work. So many different teams have been involved and I’m grateful for the hard work and thought that has gone into every aspect.

It promises to be a memorable weekend, particularly for the Law family who are travelling from near and far to see the new Freeman being honoured.

Congratulations on a successful conference

I had the pleasure of making the opening remarks at this year’s CG and OCE Staff Conference last week and I know from the feedback I have had that it was a fantastic week.

The programme was varied and engaging, but all linked into the Council’s aims and our aspirations for the city.

The team responsible for the conference deserve enormous praise for their effort, enthusiasm and creativity. I’m sure everyone who attended would agree that all of the hard work paid off. Thank you to everyone who helped organise the conference and also to all who attended.

Places were opened up to members of staff outside of CG and OCE and there was good take-up from other directorates.

All in all there were 31 events over 80 sessions. Fourteen of those were delivered by our own employees and 17 in partnership with other local organisations and charities. More than 400 staff attended.

Those are impressive headline numbers and a great snapshot of the reach of another successful staff conference.

Recognition for our rising stars – and their mentors

It is always heartening when dedicated and talented employees we have at Aberdeen City Council are recognised for their skills and I’m delighted that is the case in the forthcoming Law Awards of Scotland.

Scott Connor has been nominated in the Trainee of the Year category and Fiona Closs in the Junior In House Lawyer of the Year category.

Both will face competition, with five other finalists vying for the two awards, but regardless of the outcome on November 30 they can be proud of their achievements in being named finalists.

It’s a great honour for them as individuals early in their careers and reflects positively on the Council as a whole. Those who have mentored Scott and Fiona – sharing knowledge and experience – also deserve praise for their role in this recognition for the team.

At a time of great change within the organisation, it’s important to stress that good people will always be at the heart of the vital services we deliver on behalf of all those we serve. That focus will never change and the commitment to fostering talented individuals across the services is something we can all be proud of.

Remembrance reflections

My duties as Chief Executive are many and varied, but none is more humbling than that of representing the Council at the Remembrance events.

On Sunday the ceremony at the city war memorial and service at the St Nicholas Kirk were moving and thought provoking in equal measure as we joined the nation in remembering the sacrifices made in conflict.

Those from our own organisation were joined by other public service representatives as well as the armed forces, including reserves and cadets, and a variety of groups and individuals from throughout Aberdeen and beyond.

An enormous amount of planning and preparation is required to ensure the smooth running of the Remembrance programme. I thank everyone who played their part in that operation and ensured the city once again was able to pay its respects in a fitting manner.