School closures – Coronavirus

Dear Colleague

Today the First Minister announced that it is inevitable that mainstream schools will shut. The assumption is that they will be closed by the end of the week. What’s more, the First Minister has said that she cannot promise that schools will reopen before summer.

As a parent, I appreciate the disruption this may cause for colleagues who have children in city schools and further afield. I also very much appreciate the uncertainty this creates around future domestic arrangements.

However, I think I speak for everyone when I say that with respect to schools the priority must be the health and welfare our children, and that must come first when deciding the next steps. In particular, we need to give thought to how we protect the most vulnerable members of our communities and enable the ongoing delivery of vital services.

The Council will continue to follow government guidance, and we await an update tomorrow. As I write colleagues in education and other services are working on measures to keep children and indeed the wider community safe in what is an evolving situation. We are also looking for ways as an employer to support staff who have children of school age in the weeks ahead.

These are unprecedented times, not just for families, but for everyone. I thank you for your continuing support will update you when we have more details.

Could we be council of the year?

At the start of January I announced that we had been shortlisted by the LGC awards for awards in three categories:

  • Campaign of the Year
  • Community Involvement
  • Council of the Year

For the first two nominations, colleagues visited London last week to deliver their pitch and answer judges’ questions. You can read more about their experience below.

For Council of the Year, we had the exciting and daunting experience of live judging this week! We welcomed three judges to our city and showcased some of the great things we’ve achieved together over the past 12 months.

The LGC Awards celebrate excellence in local government. Click the image above to see the final shortlist for 2020.

In preparing for their visit, I was honoured to be reminded of all the amazing work we do across the city. At the forefront of our bid for Council of the Year is the story of us, the employees of Aberdeen City Council, and of what we collectively achieve when we pull together as one team. It’s the story of how we’re building communities with communities, working together in partnership to make things better and helping everyone to prosper.

I would like you to join me in this celebration by visiting the photo gallery, which we used as part of the judges’ visit. It has been reassembled for you on the Lower Ground Floor of Marischal College outside the glass lifts and will remain there until Friday 7th February. I encourage you to take a look, you’ll probably see some familiar faces!

Being one of six finalists for Council of the Year – and the only one in Scotland – is an accolade in itself and I know that whatever the final decision in March, we can all take a huge amount of pride in being in the running for such prestigious awards. We all play our part.

Nominations open today for the 2020 Star Awards

Award season is upon us.  Announcements have already been made for the OSCARS and BAFTAS and now I am pleased to announce that from today nominations are open for our very own awards.

The Star Awards give us the chance to celebrate the successes of the past year (we have after all been nominated for the LGC Council of the Year) and to recognise colleagues for their hard work.

We are a large organisation, across many disciplines and locations and these awards not only offer you the chance to praise a colleague or highlight a project but they can help forge stronger bonds between services by calling attention to the wide range of work we do.

I am always grateful for the dedication of everyone works who at Aberdeen City Council.  There are thousands of staff across the organisation and the commitment you all show toward the City and improving the way we do business is second to none.

We should all be proud of the work we all do for the city and I want to encourage you all to nominate a colleague or team that you think have excelled in the past year.  This is our opportunity to show members of ‘Team Aberdeen’ that we value their contribution.

The deadline for nominations is Friday 21st February.

Nominate and find out more at Star Awards

Happy New Year. Welcome back.

I hope you all had a fantastic time over the festive period and as always, I would like to offer my thanks and appreciation to everyone who was on duty or on call over the past fortnight.

The year ahead is likely to be another of continued challenge, but I have no doubt that working as one team we can also make it a year of opportunity.

We certainly have a few things to look forward to in the first few weeks of 2020.

Aberdeen City Council have been nominated for the Council of the Year category in the LGC Awards. These are much coveted awards across the UK and Aberdeen is the only Scottish representative in the list of finalists.

It is proof, not that I had any doubt, that the hard work and committed from across ACC to transform the way we do our business is exemplar. This nomination is a great achievement and I am proud of each and everyone of you. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony on the 18th  March.

We have also been nominated for two further categories:  Campaign of the Year and Community Involvement. Our nomination for campaign of the year, reflects the significant progress we’ve made to move transactions on line and the use of an extensive social media campaign to assist this. Our nomination for Community Involvement reflects the significant expansion of our work with communities and the empowerment of such communities. Both awards feature the execution of our Target Operating model and its fantastic to see these deliberate approaches being recognized. Read my previous blog to find out more. 

I am also excited to welcome Spectra back to Aberdeen in 2020.  It makes a welcome return to the city on 13th February with an exciting programme themed on Scotland’s national year of ‘Coast and Waters’.  It will be great to see the light artworks once again brighten up our dark February nights and I look forward to the announcement of the full programme in the New Year.

These are just two of the many things happening in Aberdeen and the council this year and I look forward to working with you all throughout the year.

Again, my thanks for all your hard work and commitment. Let’s make 2020 one to remember.

Merry Christmas and thank you for a memorable year

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone at Aberdeen City Council as well as to your family, loved ones and friends.

Your dedication and commitment to Team Aberdeen is very much appreciated and has been at the heart of some fantastic achievements throughout 2019.

I’d like to offer an extra vote of thanks to the many colleagues who will be on duty over the festive period to ensure the smooth running of services and to maintain the care and support we provide to our customers. As a busy city authority, our work never stops and the efforts over the holiday periods deserve special praise.

It has been an exciting year for Aberdeen, with several big-ticket projects coming to fruition.

We opened the doors to the lovingly restored and expanded Aberdeen Art Gallery – if you haven’t been already, the weeks ahead will hopefully provide a chance to explore an amazing venue.

The Music Hall too is nearing its first full year after extensive refurbishment and of course P&J Live is a hive of activity after its summer opening, bringing a world class facility to the region and already attracting global acts and breaking records in the process.

These are truly remarkable achievements and great additions to the city and the region.

We’ve had wonderful events – including Nuart, The Tour Series and Great Aberdeen Run – and there are more to come in 2020 as Spectra returns and The Tour of Britain rolls into the north-east for the first time.

These are just some of the headline grabbing projects and we can all take great pride in the way these are helping to transform the city.

What we should take just as much pride in, if not more, is the work of colleagues every hour of every day that so often goes under the radar but is making a difference to the lives of those we serve.

From the care we provide to young people in our schools and through integrated children’s services, to the support we provide to individuals and families through our housing and homelessness teams, from the work with partners in Food and Fun to ensure children are being catered for in school holidays to the access to free sanitary products that has been rolled out throughout the city, from the hard work of our winter maintenance teams to the patience and advice our customer service staff provide on the frontline.

The list is long and growing – the impact on the lives of the people of Aberdeen on a daily basis is something that is difficult to quantify but is very real and deserves recognition. Every member of staff has a different role to play and, with the introduction of our new Guiding Principles, we have seen the Team ethos shining through this year.

I’d like to highlight another of those principles that’s particularly relevant at this time of year – Purpose, and the way we care about our city and our people.

Care for each other and all of those who fall under our wing, both at work and at home, is so important over the festive period.

We work closely with SAMH and the annual suicide prevention message is a timely reminder that this time of year is one of great contrasts. The advice below will resonate with us all in different ways, please do share as widely as you can. There is always help and support available for staff and those we serve, there should be no hesitation in reaching out.

Once again, my thanks go to those who will be on duty for the Council over the weeks ahead and to all for your endeavours over the past 12-months.

Whatever you are doing this festive season, best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and New Year.

Suicide Help - christmas message

Celebrating World Children’s Day: Our pledge to Aberdeen’s children and young people

November 20 marks a hugely important date on the calendar – World Children’s Day.

Celebrated across the globe, the Unicef-led initiative is now in its 30th year and is designed to raise awareness and highlight the way the rights of children are helping to change lives.

It’s an opportunity to reflect on what has been done – but also to underline what still remains to be achieved.

This isn’t just about distant countries, it’s about what is happening on our own doorstep. It is about listening to the young voices in Aberdeen, understanding the hopes and dreams of the next generation and committing to taking action to put children’s rights at the heart of the decisions we make as a Council and with community partners.

At schools throughout the city on Wednesday there will be events in lots of different shapes and forms – but with the common theme of putting World Children’s Day up in lights.

On the day I will be joining Chief Officers and other council employees in taking part in a webinar of a different kind when we are joined by children and young people from city schools to discuss the importance of children’s rights and our steps to becoming a Unicef accredited Child Friendly City. You can join in from 12.30pm on Wednesday by clicking here.

We’ll also have VIP guests in Marischal College as pupils are invited to work with staff across the organisation to share their views in a variety of different ways across the day.

Throughout the day our Council social media channels will be taken over by World Children’s Day – sharing content from our schools and really raising awareness of all of the positive things that are happening. We have around 45,000 twitter followers alone, so there’s great reach with those posts and I’d encourage anyone who is active on Twitter or Facebook to join in and spread the word. The hashtag is: #childrensdayACC

Understandably digital media is the focus, but we have also arranged for pupils to take over the editor’s chair at the Evening Express – spending Tuesday  in the Aberdeen Journals offices at Marischal Square preparing Wednesday’s edition and shaping the news agenda. You will be able to read their opinions in the comment column on World Children’s Day.

Look out in the weeks ahead for a video capturing some of the activities and showcasing our bid to become a Unicef Child Friendly City. A power of work is going on behind the scenes to gain the accreditation and plans are progressing well.

One of my own personal ambitions relates to our care experienced community and particularly in relaton to removing any notion of stigma or disadvantage. The recent Care Experienced Week, with a well-attended event at the Westburn Resource Centre, has given fresh impetus to shout loud and proud about the accomplishments of young people and carers as well as the vision for a future where every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential.

Big and important strides have been made, but there’s so much more to be done. As adults we shouldn’t shy away from that and have to take our lead from the passion and the optimism of the youngsters who are ready to grab opportunities with both hands.

My thanks go to the many teams who have been involved in preparing for World Children’s Day and the longer-term Child Friendly City project, both centrally and in our schools. Eleanor Sheppard, Graeme Simpson, Matt Reid, Gael Ross, Alison Cameron of Police Scotland, Ian Frampton, Paula Fullerton and Norman Adams have been at the heart of the planning.

Of course, the biggest thank you of all goes to the thousands of young people who are taking part in Aberdeen.

On behalf of the Council I’m delighted to pledge to listen and act on the messages coming through from every school and every community. We will continue to stand up for the rights of Aberdeen’s children and young people across the world.


Support for Orchard Brae on improvement journey

On the agenda for the Education Operational Delivery Committee meeting this week there was a very important report on Orchard Brae School.

As I touched upon at the time, the school community had a difficult summer following a report by Education Scotland which highlighted a number of improvement areas.

The school had already embarked on a programme of important steps, with the support of our central team and in line with the established Quality Assurance approach, prior to the inspection and the subsequent findings.

Since then that improvement journey has continued and the report to committee on Tuesday underlined some of the areas of development that have been addressed and the determination to continue to build on what has been delivered to date.

Education Scotland made a return visit in September and noted the significant progress that has been made.

I have had the pleasure of visiting Orchard Brae for various events and have always found it to be an incredibly inspiring school with a supportive and encouraging atmosphere. I look forward to my visits and to the warmth of the welcome from pupils and staff alike.

Even when faced with the scrutiny generated by the inspection report, the togetherness within the Orchard Brae team and wider school community never wavered and I want to take the opportunity to thank staff, pupils and parents for the way they have worked together to respond to the inspection and look to the future with such positivity.

An appreciative nod to inquisitive colleagues

We have our first Appreciative Inquiry (AI) working group up and running as we embrace a concept that’s new to the Council.

You may have read my previous posts on the approach and I’m pleased to see it gathering pace.

The premise is that we grow as individuals and teams by asking questions and working towards finding the answers. The aim is to shift thinking towards identifying successes and strengths which provide a positive platform to build from, with a structured approach to seeking improvements and solutions.

Nine colleagues have signed-up to take part in the first group, all with something different to bring to the table and with a real enthusiasm for the project. There’s a good mix from different clusters, including from the school community, and that should generate lots of different views and ideas.

The theme for the first foray into the world of Appreciative Inquiry is on recognition and how we can better value each other, with the first meetings already held.

I’m keen for the group to share their experiences and thoughts on a regular basis, so look out for those updates in the weeks and months ahead – as well as the invitation  to all of us to get involved and help shape the work of the group through the Transformation Zone.

By way of introduction, the group comprises:

Pauline Wilkinson, Support Manager, Place, Strategic Place Planning

Gordon McDade, Portfolio Officer, Governance, PMO;

Akeem Babatunde, Residential Practitioner, Operations;

Aneta Mroczynska, Customer Applications Administrator, Customer, Customer Experience;

Greg Davidson, School Technician, Operations, Integrated Children’s and Family Services Services;

Lynn Mutch, Project Officer, Place, City Growth;

Michael Robinson, Quantity Surveying Officer, Resources, Capital;

Bruce Reid, Business Services Manager, Customer, Customer Experience;

Manuela Costa, Clinical Practitioner, Operations, Integrated Children’s and Family Services.

Training is being provided to give everyone an introduction to the principles and practice of Appreciative Inquiry, with the first recommendations expected to come back from the group around the turn of the year.

My thanks go to all those who have volunteered and I’m sure you join me in wishing them well as they set off on an exciting journey.


Marischal display puts Trading Standards in the spotlight

Staff and visitors to Marischal College will have noticed our colleagues doing a sterling job of raising awareness as part of Scottish Trading Standards Week.

Graeme Paton and the team will be manning their stall throughout the week as part of the national drive to tackle important issues and share very powerful messages.

The role of Trading Standards in protecting the people and place from harm can’t be overstated and day in day out there is great work being done in our city centre and communities – both in terms of detection and prevention.

The focus to kick-off the week has been on the sale of tobacco and vaping products to young people under the age of 18, with some quite shocking statistics highlighting the scale of the issue.

In Aberdeen our team employs a variety of tactics to counter the problem and have had some notable successes in helping and encouraging city businesses and consumers to comply with tobacco and e-cigarette law, taking enforcement action against those who refuse to.

In doing this work, we play a vital part in the government’s health agenda of reducing tobacco and e-cigarette use which will limit the damaging long-term health impacts and ease the pressures on our partners in the health service further down the line. It’s a really good example of the early intervention agenda and the potential for benefits across a number of our partners.

A range of other Trading Standards topics will be covered through the week and I’d urge you to take the time to visit the stand and show your support to the work of our team.

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.