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.



Tributes to a valued Museums and Galleries colleague

Following the death of Fraser Cowie, we have had further sad news over the past week with the loss of another valued colleague.

Ethel Stewart passed away at the end of last month after a short illness, having served for more than 10 years as an important member of the Museums and Galleries team.

Ethel was a sociable, popular and knowledgeable employee who was committed to her role as a Museum Liaison Officer and to the Council and Aberdeen as a whole. She not only touched the lives of her colleagues, but all of the visitors who benefited from her passion for the city’s museums.

I know Ethel’s loss has been felt deeply by everyone who worked with her and I share in the heartfelt tributes that have been made as well as sending my condolences on behalf of the Council to colleagues, family and friends.

Sad loss of a kind and respected colleague

It is with great sadness that I share the news of the death of a respected and valued colleague.

Fraser Cowie, Head Teacher at Westpark School, passed away on Monday. On behalf of all at Aberdeen City Council, my condolences go to Fraser’s family, colleagues and all who knew him through his role at the school and all those it serves.

Those who worked closely with Fraser speak of a lovely, kind and genuine man who was dedicated to his school, its pupils and staff.

He will be greatly missed by the young people he was such a positive influence on as well as colleagues and the wider community, having spent decades working in the Northfield area.

Such sad news is always felt throughout the Council and I pay tribute to the contribution Fraser made to education in the city over the course of service spanning 28 years.


Best wishes and thanks to our Council teams

I must take the opportunity to pass on Easter wishes to all of our staff and once again express my thanks to the many teams who have been called into action to deal with the worst winter has thrown at us.

The season may be officially behind us now, but looking at the forecast for sleet and snow this week I know we’re still primed and ready to respond if needed over the weeks ahead.

Of course the hard work continues in spring and summer in so many different ways, not least as our greenspaces are in full bloom and colour sweeps the city.

From the skilled and dedicated teams tending to our parks, gardens and other award winning displays to the waste and recycling team catering for the spike in collections and many, many more there’s a busy schedule.  In the schools we have the hectic final term looming and over the spring and summer months a host of services will have peak periods.

That sums up the life of a Council – there’s no down time, with business as usual carrying on around the clock throughout the year.

With that in mind, can I thank all those who were on duty over the holiday weekend to ensure vital services continued – those efforts are appreciated. For those who are taking the opportunity for leave over the school holidays, I hope you have a fantastic break.

Further recognition on the national stage

The Council’s name has once again been up in lights on the big stage, this time at the Scottish Legal Awards 2018.

Congratulations go to Arlene Dunbar, from our Licensing Team, who was Highly Commended in the Paralegal of the Year category, which is great testament to her skill and knowledge.

The legal service’s Planning Environment Team was also represented on the night as finalists in the Government Legal Team of the Year, pipped at the post by the Scottish Government but deserving great credit for impressing upon the judges the power of good work that has been done.


This is the latest in a run of awards recognition Aberdeen City Council has had and that endorsement of the expertise and commitment of staff and teams is fantastic not only for those involved but for everyone across the organisation.

I encourage all services to explore opportunities to showcase their achievements through award entries and must thank all those who are proactively doing that. The process itself is a good way of taking a step back and looking at service delivery, highlighting all the positives as well as identifying areas for improvement.

The Scottish Legal Awards panel found lots to applaud in the submissions from our legal colleagues and I join the judges in congratulating both Arlene and the Planning Environment Team.