Aberdeen Art Gallery

The redevelopment of the Art Gallery took another big step forward recently when on behalf of the City Council I signed the construction work contract for the project. 

The work will be undertaken by McLaughlin and Harvey of Belfast, who are intending to commence work immediately.

I’m very pleased to acknowledge with thanks the co-operation we’re receiving from both our immediate neighbours at the Schoolhill site – Robert Gordon’s College and the Robert Gordon University.  Undertaking any major project can raise practical problems and the College and Council colleagues are currently finalising arrangements to limit disruption to their daily business, while enabling the building works to progress.

We’re also very grateful to Robert Gordon University for their understanding and co-operation.  We are also working to limit the impact of the construction project on the public, but given its city centre location I think we have to recognise that some disruption on occasion will be inevitable.

The Art Gallery redevelopment is a key element of the Strategic Infrastructure Plan and its realisation.  It’s tremendous to see another major milestone passed in the delivery of this project for the City.

Best Value Audit 2015

The Controller of Audit has presented a Best Value Audit report on Aberdeen City Council to the Accounts Commission.

The report, produced following work with the Council by Audit Scotland colleagues earlier this year, will be considered by the Accounts Commission at its meeting on 11th June. The document is publicly available on the Commission’s website http://goo.gl/dSWuvV

The final report, which will include the Accounts Commission’s Findings is due to be published on 2nd July.  The report, together with an initial action plan addressing the Findings will be taken to the Council at its meeting on 19th August.


Star Awards

A fantastic Star Awards event last night at the Beach Ballroom, so many stories of staff achievement and excellence worthy of celebration.

Congratulations are due not only to all the winners and but also to all the shortlisted nominees.  Our Awardees for 2015 are:

Professionalism:  Stephen Booth, Property Estates Manager (CH&I)  

Respect:  Culter Cleaning Team; Helen Graham, Susan Robertson, Mary Clark (CH&I)

Customer Focus:  Jackie Lamont, Deputy Head Teacher, Danestone Primary School

Communication:  Carol Li, School Administrator, St Peter’s RC School

Friday’s Child:  Fiona Cochrane, Support Officer (CH&I)

Collaboration:  Powis Recycling Team, Waste and Recycling Team and Powis Residents’ Group: Hannah Lynch, Erica Manfroi, Martina Klubal, Anne Gladstone, Alan Paterson, Dave Simmers, Andy Mearns, Scott Ross, Michael McTigue and Fiona Lindsay

Innovation:  Ray Douglas, Beach Ballroom (E&CS)

People’s Champion:  Donna Shaw, Housing Support Worker (CH&I)

Shining Star:   Louise Ironside, Assistant HR Coordinator (CG)

Legacy Awards:  Elizabeth Wood, Senior Complaints, Rights and Enquiries Office, (SC&W); Judith Stones, Lead Curator in Archaeology and History, (EC&S); Jim Taylor, Surveying Manager, Kittybrewster; Beverley Graham, Support Officer to the Lord Provost.

Great thanks are due to the judges who decided on the winners, to the staff team that pulled together such an enjoyable (and glamorous) event and to the sponsors who ensured that the ceremony and dinner were fully funded.

I’m already looking forward to the 2016 event! 

One Walk Aberdeen

I recently attended the corporate launch at the Town House for this year’s JDRF One Walk Aberdeen, a 5k walk taking place on Sunday 27th September at Drum Castle. There’s more information on the walk and the work of the juvenile diabetes research foundation here https://goo.gl/O7F0ni

I’ve committed to bring together an Aberdeen City Council ECMT team to raise sponsorship and to take on the walk, but it would be great if more Council teams were formed and joined us at Drum Castle on the day.  If you and your colleagues are interested drop me a line.


Transport Fleet and the Traffic Commissioner

I didn’t want the working week to end without me putting on record my appreciation of the hard work of all staff, trades union partners and managers who have been involved in implementing together the extensive programme of improvement activity at the transport fleet that has been underway since the Council was called before the Traffic Commissioner at the end of last year.

You will be aware that the situation the Commissioner highlighted was very poor and a number of major challenges needed to be addressed effectively but swiftly to ensure that we could continue to operate.  I am very impressed by the way this very difficult situation has been tackled and it was gratifying to hear this week the Traffic Commissioner’s recognition of the progress that has been made.  Much remains to be done, but I am confident that the team will now push on and ensure that in the not too distant future our fleet operation is recognised as being exemplary.

One final note I need to add is a personal thank you to Mark Reilly for his tireless leadership of this work.  I am very grateful to him for the determined way he has ensured that the much needed improvement has been and is being achieved.

2015 General Election

It’s the morning after the night before and ahead of becoming  fully immersed once again in the day job, I wanted to take the opportunity to write to thank everyone involved in delivering the 2015 General Election in the two constituencies for which I am Returning Officer – Aberdeen North and Aberdeen South.

I’ll be writing to all the staff who worked with me and my Deputes – David Gow, Steven Dongworth, Crawford Langley and Ciaran Monaghan – to express my gratitude to them, but mention should also be made of all the groups and organisations who made venues available to us for use as polling places and to Robert Gordon University for our count venue at RGU:Sport.

Thanks are also due to our partners who assisted in the delivery of the elections – Ian Milton and his Electoral Registration team, the Idox team who worked with us on the processing of postal votes, Royal Mail, Police Scotland and Showsec Security.

Once the dust has settled on the General Election and all the required paperwork has been finalised, we’ll take the opportunity to reflect on what we might be able to improve in the way we do things and work will begin on the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary Elections.

Corporate Governance

Following up on my blog of Wednesday about the appointments of Simon and Fraser, I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know about changes to the interim arrangements within Corporate Governance pending the recruitment and selection process for a new Director being started again later this month.

From 30th April I will take on the role of Acting Director of Corporate Governance, providing both strategic direction for the Service and the interface between it and the elected members.  I must take this opportunity to thank Ewan Sutherland for all his work in the Acting Director role, he has gone ‘above and beyond’ in all he has done.  In May he will resume his vital work as Head of Human Resources, Organisational Development & Customer Services.  Thanks are also of course due to Jeff Capstick and Mike Lawson for their work in covering for Ewan while he was away from the HR team.

Jacqui McKenzie and Martin Murchie will continue in their interim roles covering the vacant Head of Customer Service and Performance post until Simon Haston’s arrival as Head of IT & Transformation at the start of May.  Again, thanks to them for all their work.

Fraser Bell takes up post as Head of Legal & Democratic Services at the end of July.  In the interim, Craig Innes will provide strategic managerial direction to Legal & Democratic Services and will also act as the Council’s Monitoring Officer.  In the interim  period the four Service Managers in Legal & Democratic Services will act up in the duties of the Head of Service specific to each of their posts as set out in Standing Orders, the Scheme of Delegation and the job profile.  In addition Alyson Mollison will act as Clerk to the Licensing Board and Karen Donnelly will act both as Appointed Person for the Pensions Scheme and as Data Controller.

My thanks to all colleagues for their support in putting these arrangements in place.



2015 General Election

Yesterday saw the publication of the names of the candidates standing in the City at the UK Parliamentary Election on 7th May.

The candidates for the Aberdeen North and Aberdeen South constituencies are listed on the City Council’s website http://goo.gl/af1b4A and those for the Gordon constituency are listed on the Aberdeenshire Council website http://goo.gl/eDUhD8 

Preparations are well advanced for the processing of postal votes, polling day itself and the overnight count on 7th into 8th May.  I know many Council staff will be working with David Gow and the Elections Team and as Returning Officer I am very grateful for their support and indeed for the work of those who “hold the fort” at the Council while the election is underway.

Finally, the deadline for registering to vote in the General Election is Monday 20th April.  If you’re not already registered you can do it online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Shaping Aberdeen – shaping the team

I said in my blog last Thursday that further information would follow soon about the posts of Head of IT & Transformation and Head of Legal & Democratic Services.

I am pleased to let you know that both posts have now been offered on a preferred candidate basis as follows:

Simon Haston has been offered the post of Head of IT and Transformation.  Simon is currently Business Change Programme Manager for Scotland Excel and prior to this was employed in senior management roles with both the Improvement Service and the City of Edinburgh Council.  He has a strong background in leading transformation and ICT strategy both working in, and in partnership with Scottish local government.  His knowledge and experience in these areas will no doubt prove to be invaluable in his work with us.

Fraser Bell has been offered the post of Head of Legal & Democratic Services.  Fraser is currently Head of Legal Services at Orkney Islands Council, a post he has held for the past three years.  Prior to this Fraser worked for Shetland Islands Council and also in the private sector.  Fraser plays an active national role as the Senior Vice President of SOLAR (the Society of Local Authority Lawyers & Administrators in Scotland).  He brings to the Council a drive to develop innovative ways of working and a customer focussed approach to his role.

While both appointments are subject to the normal pre-employment checks, the intention is that Simon will take up post in May and Fraser will begin with the Council in July.