Shaping Aberdeen – sharing services

I’m pleased to report that yesterday’s Finance, Policy and Resources Committee agreed the proposal that Steve Whyte, the Council’s Head of Finance is also to become the senior finance officer for Shetland Islands Council.

He will be jointly employed by the two councils and will provide financial oversight and leadership to both.  The arrangement provides a tremendous opportunity to both the City Council and Shetland Islands Council to enhance our existing working relationship and to ensure a two-way sharing of expertise and knowledge.

Shared service arrangements such as this are going to become more and more important within the public sector over the coming years as resources are reduced.  The Corporate Management Team is committed to exploring such options wherever and whenever they emerge and taking to elected members those proposals which we think provide the most beneficial impact across our three key touchstones – customer experience, staff experience and our use of resources.

Being open to the potential to share services with others offers really exciting opportunities to innovate and to transform the way we do business.

Have your say

A gentle reminder that the Employee Opinion Survey is due to close on Friday 12th December. If you’ve not yet taken the opportunity to fill in the questionnaire I would urge you to do so.

As I said on the blog just before the Survey was launched, whilst structures, strategies and systems are all important, we will only be successful if we all feel positive and engaged.  It’s vitally important therefore for me to understand your experience of working for Aberdeen City Council and whether that experience would lead you to promote the Council as an employer.

Give me your thoughts, when the report is published read the feedback and then work with me and your colleagues to make a difference where change is needed.



We’re all corporate parents

As we move towards Christmas and the New Year, it seems a good time to reflect on the progress the City Council has made during 2014 in improving the lives of our looked after children and young people through the implementation of our corporate parenting policy.  We aim to ensure that children and young people who are or have been looked after have the same opportunities as their peers who have not.  I see this as one of my core roles as Chief Executive and I am keen to ensure that we all work together to achieve more positive outcomes for our looked after children and young people.

This year has seen the introduction of the Champions’ Board and the creation of the Young People’s Participation Group.  The latter invites looked after young people to take part in activities and gives them an opportunity to say what matters to them and to raise any issues they are dealing with.

The Champions’ Board gives looked after young people the opportunity to talk directly to decision makers about how best to remove the sometimes complex barriers that can get in the way of improving their lives.

At the same time, the Council is looking to develop and increase work experience and internship opportunities under our family firm policy that supports looked after young people into positive and sustained work destinations.  2014 has seen the introduction of the 12 week work experience programme within the Building Services team at Kittybrewster.  You may remember that I blogged about its launch.  The first two young people who took part in the programme found the experience invaluable and I’m delighted to say that it has helped them to find jobs.  The work experience model will now be used as the foundation for more family firm internship opportunities across the Council.

The year has also seen the launch of Aberdeen Guarantees for all young people in the City aged between 16 and 24 to provide further opportunities in learning, employment or training to help increase positive destinations for them.  In addition, a virtual school is being developed so that we can monitor and progress the educational attendance and achievement of looked after young people.

Aberdeen Foyer has also been working closely with some of our looked after young people and held their Foyer YOSCARS 2014 Awards in September.  The awards were given for improved attendance at school, attaining qualifications, increased commitment to responsible behaviour in the community, volunteering, arts projects, progressing to college or training and working.

Next year the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will give all those who are aged 16 and in care the right to stay in care to the age of 21 and will extend the support to be available to those in care up to the age of 26.

It has been a tremendous year of progress and this vital work will go on in 2015.  We have a shared responsibility across the Council to do all we can to improve the lives of our looked after children and young people and I am confident that together we can make sure they all have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.


Shaping Aberdeen – City Centre Masterplan

The latest phase of the consultation process relating to the development of a new city centre masterplan for Aberdeen reached another milestone at the weekend just gone with over 550 people visiting the two-day exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery to view the progress being made on the proposed vision for the next 25 years.  With more than 1,000 people having visited the earlier display in September and the number of online ( ) participants in the process continuing to grow, it is really encouraging to see so many taking the opportunity to involve themselves in shaping Aberdeen’s future.

29/11/14 Public Consultation of the  Aberdeen City Centre Masterplan project

The views and comments shared during the process will help inform the decisions taken on the project and with the consultation exhibition now at Marischal College until Friday 5th December, I encourage everyone who can to get involved and share their thoughts on how Aberdeen should respond to the employment, housing, sustainability, transport and business challenges and opportunities facing it. 

Working with our team of international master planning experts, the aim is to deliver a city centre befitting Europe’s energy capital for this and future generations.  We should all share in such an exciting opportunity to drive the process forward and help shape the city for the future.


At the end of a week where the food options available at lunchtimes in the Council’s schools have made news, I write to let you know that given the feedback there has been to the changes made to school lunch menus introduced last month, a further review is now being undertaken to look at how we might balance the various requirements of attractive food choices, health eating criteria and food labelling regulations. 

While this review is undertaken the sandwich option will return to the school lunch menu. 

Pete Leonard, John Quinn and I had a very positive meeting this morning with Tommy Campbell of Unite and discussed the issues that have been raised during the week.  I am pleased to confirm that managers are committed to working in partnership with members of the catering team and their trades unions to identify and resolve any staffing matters that may arise as a result of any menu changes. 

Views on our school meal provision are always welcome and feedback is actively sought.  If you wish to share your own views or those of your friends, family or school pupils themselves please send them to

Awards success for the Council

Congratulations to all the individual Council colleagues, their teams and the partners they work with in bringing more awards back to Aberdeen.

We achieved more success last week for our work both in supporting the re-establishment of red squirrels in Aberdeen and for our work in delivering affordable warmth to those living in our multi-storey blocks in the city.  Two very different projects, but both recognised nationally for their quality and the impact that they are having here in Aberdeen.

Our red squirrels project was joint winner of the RSPB Species Champion Award in this year’s RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards – more information here and the affordable warmth project won the Excellence in Environmental Sustainability Award at this year’s Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland Excellence Awards – more information here 


Communication and Promotion – Takki Sulaiman

For your information, I post below the recently issued statement from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets concerning our preferred candidate for the post of Head of Communication and Promotion:

Tower Hamlets’ Head of Communications, Takki Sulaiman, will be joining Aberdeen City Council.

Commenting on the news, Stephen Halsey, Head of Paid Service for Tower Hamlets, said: “I want to thank Takki for his contribution to Tower Hamlets since March 2010.  The borough attracts a high calibre of staff who continue to be in demand with high-profile employers across the UK, partly as a result of the experiences gained from the intensity of working for an inner city area with its unique opportunities and challenges.

“I know that Takki’s experience on working on the borough’s 2012 Olympic preparations – for which the council won an award – will be of direct relevance to a growing and ambitious city such as Aberdeen.”

Takki Sulaiman added: “I have spent five enjoyable, interesting and rewarding years communicating what Tower Hamlets has to offer London and indeed the world.  This new post at Aberdeen City Council means that I will help present Aberdeen’s cultural and economic opportunities across the UK and internationally.  On a personal note it is also an opportunity for my family to be nearer relatives who will need our support.

The appointment meantime remains subject to the normal pre-employment checks.

Building the Team – Communication and Promotion

Following up on my blog of yesterday, I am delighted to let you know that Takki Sulaiman is the Council’s preferred candidate for the role of Head of Communication and Promotion.

This new post, established within the Office of Chief Executive has as its overall priority the responsibility for improving the Council’s communication and engagement with the people we all serve. At the same time the post is also responsible for promoting the Council’s activities and achievements locally, nationally and internationally working in partnership with others to ensure that Aberdeen is recognised as a great place to live and work.

The post will play a pivotal role as we move forward both in finalising the new management structure of the Council and in developing the culture of the organisation, seeking to best balance customer experience, staff experience and our use of resources.

The Communication and Promotion service will bring together colleagues currently involved in delivering a range of functions including advertising, city and civic events, city promotion, design, digital communications, freedom of information, internal communications, marketing, media relations, public reporting, twinning and web activity.

Takki joins the Council from his current role as Head of Communications and Marketing at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets where he has been in post for the past 4½ years. Prior to Tower Hamlets he has held a variety of senior communications roles operating across England and Wales and in addition Takki has experience of delivering a number of high-profile events and marketing campaigns.

As you know, the Council’s appointment process for Chief Officers includes a full day “assessment centre” where candidates are put through their paces by a number of panels made up of staff and senior representatives of external stakeholders. The following day, candidates are interviewed by an appointment panel of elected members. Takki emerged from this process as an exceptional candidate and I am certain he will be a tremendous addition to the team here in Aberdeen.

The appointment meantime remains subject to the normal pre-employment checks.


Remembrance Day

At 11.00 am on Tuesday 11th November Council colleagues and visitors to Council properties will once again this year have the opportunity to observe the 2 minute silence in memory of those affected in all conflicts.

Yesterday, it was an honour and a privilege for me to join the Lord Provost at the City’s war memorial for the act of remembrance and to lay a wreath on behalf of Aberdeen City Council.  The service, this year given extra poignancy by the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, gives an opportunity to pause and reflect on the sacrifice made by so many from Aberdeen over the past 100 years. 

Among the many laying wreaths at the service, I was particularly pleased that Martin Carle, a pupil at St Machar Academy and Bill Robertson of the school’s History department were in attendance.  With pupils having laid a wreath earlier in the year at the Menin Gate on a school visit to Ypres, it was entirely appropriate for the school to participate in Aberdeen’s service. 

The importance of World War I projects being undertaken in schools cannot be overestimated in the way they bring home to new generations both the impact of conflicts and the need to remember.