Don’t miss the chance to recognise colleagues who shine

There’s just one week to go until nominations close for the 2018 Star Awards – if you haven’t taken the opportunity to make your voice heard, now’s the time to do so.

The Star Awards have become an important part of the Council calendar for us and are all about celebrating those who go the extra mile for those we serve, colleagues and the organisation as a whole.

It’s always humbling to hear the stories behind the nominations – we’re very fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated, skilled and, in so many cases, selfless team members.

The nomination process is straightforward and I’d love to see recommendations coming in from across every service. The response so far has been great, but the more nominations the better as far as the Star Awards team and I are concerned.

On that note, can I thank all those who have made themselves available to organise this year’s awards. A lot of hard work goes into making it happen and I know that is appreciated  throughout the Council.

Nominations can be submitted in a range of categories and all of the information can be found here. The deadline is noon on Friday, March 2.

I appreciate the contribution of everyone who has taken time out to nominate a colleague so far and hope there are many more to follow over the next week.

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.

Transition to Target Operating Model

Following Friday’s meeting of the Strategic Transformation Committee (STC), I am now able to share with you the detail of the report on the transition to the Target Operating Model (TOM) which was considered in the private section of Friday’s meeting. The report can be found online here as the second additional circulation.

As a result of the regulatory framework we work under following the bond issue in 2016, the Council was required to first notify the London Stock Exchange of the detail of the report on the transition to the TOM and that was done this morning. Following that notification, I am now in a position to provide you with the same information.

On Friday the STC gave its approval for the next stage in the transition to the interim functional structure.

The decision by members of the committee included approval for recommendations to allow for a reduction by up to 230 full time equivalent (FTE) posts. An additional 140 FTE posts which are currently vacant and not required within the TOM will also be disestablished.

Posts have been identified as opportunities for change and in-scope for change as a result of teams coming together in the new interim structure. This may mean there are too many roles within a new team for the required service delivery.

The reduction in posts together with the dis-establishment of current vacant posts is expected to realise £10.378million in savings in 2018/19 and it is hoped these savings can be achieved through voluntary means.

We will manage the reduction in posts in as sensitive and understanding way as we can. Communication will be central in managing this process and as opportunities for change are identified, employees will be involved through both engagement and consultation.

Trade Union representatives are being briefed this morning, including information on the timeline for consultation.

It is planned that during the rest of February the Council establishes the extent of FTE post reduction that can be achieved through further disestablishment of vacant posts, agency worker relationships, secondments and non-renewal of fixed term contracts.  The Council is also committed to using VSER subject to the operational needs of the Council and budgetary constraints. This will include reconsideration of previously non-supported VSER applications.

The position will be reviewed at the end of February in advance of the new organisational structures for the affected areas being presented to the Transformation Delivery Boards and the Transformation Management Board.

As new organisational structures are adopted the Council will seek to implement those new structures including FTE post reduction throughout March.  At the moment these are simply indicative time frames which are subject to change depending on the outcome of consultation meetings and logistical considerations.

Members of the Extended Corporate Management Team and Third Tier managers have been asked to attend a meeting today to ensure they are aware of the process we are following. I would urge anyone with specific questions or concerns to raise them through their manager in the first instance.

I appreciate the uncertainty many will feel in relation to the transition to the TOM and I would ask everyone to be mindful of that and to be supportive to colleagues.

Whilst the reduction in posts will understandably be a focus of attention, Friday’s report included wider information that I would urge everyone to read to gain a greater understanding of the rationale being used.

You will, of course, be interested in what the transition to the interim functional structure means for you individually in terms of your role, responsibilities and ways of working – staff will be fully informed and involved through the implementation stages. All cost centres, services and staff posts have already been aligned to the appropriate function on paper and plans for how everyone will be re-aligned and begin to work are currently being developed.

It is important to note there will continue to be opportunities to fill vacancies for posts at the heart of the TOM, many of which will appeal to existing Aberdeen City Council employees keen to utilise existing skills or to explore options for retraining.

As I have stressed in the engagement sessions we have held and at various intervals in recent months, whilst we are committed to change and to our ambitions to build the Council of the future there is also a sincere will to be inclusive and respectful of all staff during this journey.

Once again, I thank you for your support and the valuable input there has been to date. The contribution of our employees will continue to be essential as we shape the journey. we are on as an organisation.

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.

Success stories to round off the week

It’s important we celebrate the success that we enjoy as individuals, teams and a Council as a whole. In the past fortnight there’s been plenty to shout about!

We have been informed Aberdeen City Council will be represented in not one but two categories in the finals of the Scottish Legal Awards.

The Planning and Environment Team from Legal Services is shortlisted in the Government Legal Team category – facing competition from colleagues at Aberdeenshire Council and from the Scottish Government.  Arlene Dunbar will also be flying the flag for the Council in the Paralegal of the Year category, nominated alongside five representatives from private practice.

I wish both the team and Arlene well for the ceremony in March – but to reach the final is a fantastic achievement in itself.

Before then, we have three members of staff shortlisted in the APSE Scottish Apprentice of the Year Awards. Presented in February, being selected as finalists is great recognition of the individuals and of those who have trained and nurtured them. Congratulations to Graeme Baird, Craig Paterson and David Hutcheon for earning their place on the shortlist.

At the end of last week, I watched with pride as pupils and teachers representing two city schools took centre stage at the Young Engineers and Science Clubs Scotland awards run by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.

The Torry Academy and Kingswells School teams collected the North East Young Engineers Club of the Year prizes in the secondary and primary categories respectively.  STEM subjects will be crucial to a bright future for the city and it was great to see youngsters being recognised for excelling. I can’t praise the young people and teachers enough for their commitment and enthusiasm.

We also received news from the Big Lottery Fund that we have progressed to the next round of the Early Action System Change application process – another step towards securing vital funding to address the needs of young people in Aberdeen.  The work done by our partners in relation to this bid, particularly the Foyer, is very much appreciated.

Staying with the theme of young people, the work that our Virtual School has been doing in the city to support our looked after children has been recognised nationally by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS). Our innovation will be built upon to inform policy and guidance for authorities across Scotland.

Finally, I would like to say well done to members support assistant Lee Green – who has successfully gained his ECDL qualification, achieving a 100% pass rate.

Congratulations to Lee and to all who have brightened up January with their achievements. I’m sure there will be much more to celebrate in the year ahead.

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.

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.


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.

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.