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.



A final call for nominations for the 2019 Star Awards

This week presents us all with the last opportunity to submit a nomination for the 2019 Star Awards and, if you haven’t already, I would urge everyone to take some time to consider contributing.

Think of a colleague, a manager, a team you have worked with or perhaps individuals and teams from other areas of the Council that you have seen making a difference to the city. Then think of the recognition they deserve and the boost a nomination would give to that person or group.

Nobody asks for a pat on the back for the work they do, and in so many cases going above and beyond the call of duty, but everyone likes to know that they are appreciated and that their efforts are recognised.

We have thousands of staff across the Council who excel day in and day out, so often in very testing circumstances, and a major part of our work on developing and improving the organisation’s culture is around getting better at recognising that.

The Star Awards offer an opportunity to celebrating the success stories that happen throughout the year and showing us all that we have a tremendous amount of talented people within our organisation, all delivering for our customers or for us as colleagues.  All are striving to improve processes, to improve experiences, to deliver services and to help make the city of Aberdeen as good as it can possibly be.

I have mentioned before how important it is for us all to feel responsible for each other’s success and that we want to be a part of celebrating those achievements. This sense of shared responsibility for the good work we do is critical to creating the culture we need in order to be successful as an organisation.

The Star Awards give us the chance to do just that and I hope you will join me in encouraging colleagues to nominate members of staff who are most deserving.

The deadline for nominations is 5pm on Friday (March 8) and the Star Awards page can be found here.

Good luck to all the nominees who are put forward this year.

Publication of budget report highlights scale and impact of financial challenge

This afternoon the budget report has been published and I know the detail will be of interest to all staff, highlighting potential impacts across the organisation with wide ranging proposals.

There are many options contained in the report and appendices. These include revenue generation ideas and changes to fees and charges to increase our income in the face of diminishing central funding as well as changes to the way we deliver services or the levels of service provided to bridge the funding gap we face.

It is important to stress that no decisions have been taken on any of these measures. The report is for elected members to consider when the Council budget meeting takes place in the Town House chamber on March 5.

Following that meeting I will be able to outline the choices that have been made and the next steps for us as an organisation as we implement the council’s decisions.

Between now and Tuesday’s budget meeting there will undoubtedly be a great focus on the contents of the report, both in the media and of course from Council staff. I’d encourage everyone to take the opportunity to read the papers and build understanding of the budget process that underpins everything we do.

The final figure for the funding gap we face for 2019/20 is £41.2m and there are difficult decisions facing members in relation to many of the budget options. I explained more about the reasons for this gap previously, but essentially it stems from reduced funding coupled with increased costs and rising demand.

We know from past experience that the period between papers being published and decisions being made in the chamber leads to uncertainty and I would encourage any member of staff with questions relating to the content of the budget report to raise those with their line manager or Chief Officer.

There will be further communication, both corporately and at cluster level, following the budget meeting when we have clear instructions for officers on the options that have been adopted to close the budget gap for the year ahead.

2019/20 budget: Update on report publication

As we near another important milestone in the build-up to the Council budget meeting on March 5, I’m keen to provide a brief update.

As outlined previously, a great deal of work has been carried out to draft the budget report containing the options proposed to bridge the funding gap we face of between £40million and £50m.

The papers will be published next week, with the timings subject to the report being finalised and processed for publication online in the usual manner. When they are available I’ll ensure notification through my blog and by email.

Given the scale of the financial challenge we face for 19/20 there will inevitably be impacts felt across the organisation and the report will provide the first in-depth detail for staff and the wider public.

I’d urge everyone to take the opportunity to read the budget packs when they are available next week and build knowledge on the process that shapes the daily work of the Council – something we’re also attempting to do externally, with a new video led by Jonathan Belford to be shared this week through our social media channels.

I’m committed to providing further context and explanation of the key elements of the budget and will do that at the earliest opportunity when the report is published and also following the decisions made by Council on March 5.

Starting the week with thanks for jobs well done

We’re all familiar with taking positives from the challenges we face day to day in the Council and the past few days have put that in the spotlight.

On Friday I had the privilege of speaking at our celebration for Care Day and it was really uplifting session. There’s tremendous work being done to address the inequalities faced by our care experienced community and it’s important we acknowledge that, continue the important conversation and keep building momentum.


Thank you once again to everyone who played a part in organising our Care Day event, to all who attended and to colleagues who wore red on the day to show support – but most of all, thanks to the individuals and teams who every day to make a difference to the lives of care experienced young people and adults throughout the city.

As an organisation we protect and look after people in many different ways and in often unpredictable circumstances. Isla Newcombe, our recently appointed Chief Officer for Organisational Development, has had first-hand experience of that over the past week and I’d like to pass on my appreciation for Isla’s efforts – ably assisted by colleagues from various services.

Isla was on call as Duty Emergency Response  Coordinator for the first time, part of a rota shared by Chief Officers to manage our response to the wide range of incidents that the Council encounters, and had to contend with not one but two fire incidents.

The first I mentioned in my blog last week was in a block of mixed ownership properties, with some Council tenants impacted, whilst the second, in the early hours of Sunday morning, was in a block of private properties on St Clair Street.

Whether Council tenants or homeowners, our duty of care in emergency situations is no different and Isla, supported by Derek McGowan and his teams, was able to ensure those who required temporary accommodation were looked after in their time of need.

Care Day and incident response span very different areas of work, but both are positive examples of the way we serve the people and the place in the most testing of circumstances.

Flying the flag for the city

It gives me great pleasure to share news of yet another Aberdeen success story – and a very fitting one for summer.

The environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful has confirmed that the city has been awarded five Green Flags for its outstanding green spaces.

Duthie Park, Hazlehead Park, Seaton Park, Johnston Gardens and – for the first time – Victoria Park were all winners.

The tally of five Green Flags, which recognises excellent management and environmental standards, is the highest number the city has ever achieved in a single summer.

It’s another example of great partnership working and real testament to all the hard work of community volunteers, including Friends of the parks, partners and of course our own staff.

Aberdeen is rightly proud of its renowned green spaces and this is just one more reason to explore and fall in love with your city this summer.

New Year: Hogmanay cheer and 2018 health focus

With everyone settling back into the work routine after the festive break, I want to take the opportunity to thank all those involved in the success of the city’s Hogmanay celebrations.

Music, fireworks and a great atmosphere ensured the event was a triumph and there has been plenty of positive feedback. As ever, months of planning and hard work was put in behind the scenes by Council staff – not to mention the efforts in the build-up and on the night. The teams responsible gave those who attended a great start to the year.

Thanks also go to everyone who worked through the holidays or who was on-call across a variety of other services. The work of the Council never stops and that is down to the contribution of colleagues in so many different roles.

Staying on the New Year  theme, everyone at the Council has the opportunity to make 2018 a positive one when it comes to health and wellbeing through the work of HR colleagues in providing access to a WellPoint kiosk.

The free to use kiosk can measure everything from weight and BMI to blood pressure and heart rate – with all results confidential. There are touch screen questionnaires that help to ensure the right signposting to health and lifestyle advice and support is provided.

The kiosk has been in place on the lower ground floor at Marischal College since yesterday (9 January) and will be available for the next four weeks. It will then be at West Tullos from 20 March and Altens East from 3 April, for two week spells at each, then a month at Kittybrewster from 29 May before moving on to various secondary schools.

We all tend to start the year with great intentions when it comes to health and wellbeing, so this is a good tool that’s available to us. Hopefully the kiosk will be well used.

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

Report to Council now available to view

Today a report to full Council has gone live to outline the proposals for an interim functional structure for the Council, following extensive engagement and consultation with staff, trade unions and public sector partners.

Many of you have taken the time to help shape the future direction of travel of this Council and have contributed on the proposals through staff consultation in the last three weeks. I want to thank you for taking the time to submit your views.

In total 108 staff sessions took place between 11 September and 28 November with total attendance at these events standing at 4505.  This includes large scale sessions at the Town and County Hall, Beach Ballroom and Harlaw; briefings by managers at various depots and locations, and an ‘on the road’ gallery at both Marischal and outlying establishments.

Organisation and delivery of the sessions has involved more than 167 staff including members of ECMT, 3rd tier managers, Head teachers, a range of employees from across the council, the Research and Development Team and Trade Union colleagues hosting stalls to answer any questions staff might have.  This represents a live example of the Target Operating Model in action with the breaking down of silo working and the moving of resource to where it is needed.

A summary of your responses to the proposed interim functional structure has been prepared and submitted in Appendix A of the report. Here you can see a summary of the final decisions that were made against these responses.

It is important to note that all feedback has been fed into the Transformation Team and the transformation delivery boards who will take a lead in implementing changes based on the ideas, suggestions and information as we move to the transition period. The proposal being put forward is an interim structure – we expect that as we continue to re-design the organisation, further changes will be made and you will be a key part of informing this work.

All feedback will be published and made available for everyone to see through the Transformation Zone where actions taken by the Delivery Boards will also be updated.

I hope you will continue to be engaged in this process, read through the report and the appendices and continue to submit your views about Transformation through the zone or your line manager. The report, item 9a, can be accessed here.