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 and those for the Gordon constituency are listed on the Aberdeenshire Council website 

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

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.


Where has the time gone?

It only seems a couple of weeks ago that we were coming back from the Christmas holiday and now here we are about to enjoy Easter.

Hopefully as the Easter eggs beckon, we will also be able to enjoy some lovely Spring weather, although the recent snow and sleet seem to promise something else.  All in all of course we’ve had a fairly mild Winter, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve not been ready to respond if needed.  It’s a good opportunity to once again thank all those colleagues who have been on hand to help keep the City moving during any bad weather.  The arrival of Spring will also offer me the chance to re-visit some of our public parks to meet again colleagues I last saw during the Autumn and the Winter and to see how the gardens are coming along as they move towards their Summer glory.

It’s certainly been a busy few months from my perspective.  We’ve welcomed a number of new colleagues to the senior team:

  • Euan Couperwhite, Head of Policy, Performance and Resources
  • Helen Shanks, Head of Inclusion
  • Takki Sulaiman, Head of Communication and Promotion
  • Richard Sweetnam, Head of Economic Development

and we have three more arriving over the coming months:

  • Bernadette Oxley, Head of Children’s Social Work and Chief Social Work Officer
  • Head of IT and Transformation
  • Head of Legal and Democratic Services

Further information will follow soon on the appointments to the latter two posts above.

One post remains to be filled – the Director of Corporate Governance.  We’ll start recruitment for this after the holidays.  A big thank you to the many people who have supported the recruitment process to date.  Particular thanks to staff and Trades Union colleagues who have participated in the Assessment Centres.  I’d also like to express my thanks to all our partners who have given freely of their time to help us with these important appointments.  And without this turning into an Oscar acceptance speech, special thanks to the HR colleagues for all the organisation and arrangements they coordinated.  It has been a very professional process that has drawn many complimentary comments from external colleagues.

Looking back, the Oil and Gas Summit represented a significant milestone for the Council.  It’s important that we play our part in supporting the oil and gas industry in the City given the role it plays in our local economy.  Another vote of thanks to those colleagues who helped pull the event together, you’ve set the bar very high for all future summits!

The work on the City Region Deal began in 2014 and continued into the current year.  A whole range of colleagues from both the City Council and Aberdeenshire Council came together to establish jointly what we felt the region needed.  It’s been  fantastic to see the two organisations working together for the benefit of the North East and I was delighted when the Chancellor announced in his Budget that the UK Government is happy to enter into discussion with us on a City Deal.  Again, a big thank you to all those colleagues involved.  We’ve a huge amount of work ahead of us, but for now let’s celebrate getting to this stage.

I must also take the opportunity to thank everyone for the support that’s been given to enable us to meet the conditions of our vehicle operators license.  As you may remember we were called to a Public Hearing with the Traffic Commissioner just before Christmas.  A reconvened Hearing is scheduled for May and I’m confident that we’ll be able to report significant progress.  Again a big thank you to everyone and a particular thanks to Trades Union colleagues for their support.

Work has also continued at a pace on the City Centre Masterplan culminating in the final round of public consultation.  I’m particularly pleased with the diversity of the engagement events organised and I’m grateful to all those colleagues from across the Council who volunteered to support the public engagement activity.  I’d also like to take the opportunity to remind all staff that I am very interested in hearing your views on the implications that delivering the Masterplan will have for us as a staff group.

Another highlight from a very busy three months was the positive report we received from the Care Inspectorate on its recent inspection of our integrated children’s services.  I was particularly pleased to share this with the Council and again I am delighted to recognise that many colleagues played a part in achieving such a positive outcome.  I’d like to express my thanks in particular to Susan Devlin for the leadership she has given the service, and again big thanks to all those staff involved.

So, a busy few months indeed.  I’m looking forward to some time off and I aim to enjoy one final restful holiday before we finally concede to the kids’ request for a puppy.  There’s an options appraisal that needs to be revisited!

If you’re taking time off, I hope you have a good break.  If you’re working, many thanks.

Let’s all hope for some good weather in the next few months.


Shaping Aberdeen – shaping the team

A full week of recruitment and selection this week with assessment centres and interviews for the posts of Head of Legal & Democratic Services and Head of IT & Transformation.

Some disappointment at the end of last week as it was decided not to make an appointment to the post of Director of Corporate Governance.  I completely understand and support the Appointment Panel’s decision and I am now working with colleagues to establish interim arrangements ahead of beginning a fresh recruitment exercise.

I will of course provide further updates.

City Region Deal

I am delighted to be able to follow-up my post of 9th March with the news that the Chancellor has today announced in his Budget Speech that formal negotiations will begin on the City Region Deal for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

I must take the opportunity to put on record my appreciation of all those from both Councils and our partners who have put in so much effort to get us to this position.  Of course, the hard work now begins.

I am very much looking forward to joining Jim Savege in working with our colleagues in the City and Shire, in the public and private sectors and in the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that the negotiations are successfully concluded for the people we serve across the North East.

Shaping Aberdeen – City Centre Masterplan

The weekend just passed has seen the launch of the public consultation on the City Centre Masterplan proposals. A big thank you to all members of staff who have assisted with the events that have been held so far.

The exhibition and consultation brochure is available here and the questionnaire is available here

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’m particularly interested in staff views on the proposals and how the Council will go about delivering the Masterplan once it has been finalised and agreed.  A staff-specific questionnaire will appear on The Zone soon. 

In the meantime, please encourage friends and family to have their say through the survey on the website.

2015 General Election

Eight weeks today we’ll have awoken to the results of the 2015 UK Parliamentary General Election.  Personally, I’m hopeful that I’ll have had at least a few hours sleep having declared the results for the Aberdeen North and Aberdeen South polls at some point in the early hours of Friday 8th May.

In my dual role as Chief Executive and Returning Officer I’ve today provided a guidance document to the Extended Corporate Management Team on how we should handle the pre-election period which begins at the Dissolution of Parliament on Monday 30th March.  I’ve asked that the advice be shared with all appropriate officers and I’ve also copied it to all elected members for their information. 

The document runs to 16 pages but the key points we should all bear in mind are:

  • Council staff must by law act in a politically neutral way at all times.
  • There is particular sensitivity around this political neutrality in the run-up to an election.
  • Particular care needs to be taken to ensure that any events, publicity or other communications are politically neutral during a pre-election period. 
  • Council facilities and resources must not be used in support of a political party or election candidate.
  • Unless otherwise stated, it should be assumed that normal Council business will continue; and
  • Unless otherwise covered by the guidance or in the view of a particular Service in relation to a particular query, staff will most likely respond positively to requests for information or advice from parties or candidates.

Colleagues in the Office of Chief Executive are available to assist with any particular queries you may have –


The City Centre Masterplan Team needs you!

Following my earlier post today about the City Centre Masterplan, Aberdeen City Council will be supporting the next phase of consultation and are looking for staff from within the organisation who are interested in engaging with residents, businesses and local agencies about this exciting project.

This initiative will be looking 25 years ahead for the city centre, so we want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to engage in the process that will shape the heart of Aberdeen in the future.

We are looking for volunteers to give up a few hours of their time between the 18 – 29 March 2015, to support us at a number of engagement activities that will be held across Aberdeen to raise awareness of the City Centre Masterplan and to encourage as many family members, friends and colleagues to participate in this public engagement exercise.

If you are interested in supporting this activity, please contact Dawn Schultz, City Promotions Manager on 01224 522767 or email

Shaping Aberdeen – City Centre Masterplan

Following last week’s Council decision to move ahead with the new AECC and with the Aberdeen City Region Deal being considered by Council later this week, I now write about another major, long-term strategic initiative which is about to enter the final phase of consultation before going to Council in May.

As you will know from previous blogs, over the past year the City Centre Masterplan team have been working with individual members of the public, groups, partners and stakeholders gathering feedback on how we can best support the development of the City Centre for the benefit of those who live and work in Aberdeen as well as those who visit.

I now write to invite you to take the opportunity to share your views on proposals for the City Centre which could help deliver an additional 11,000 jobs and add £290 million to the city’s annual income.  Feedback is sought between the 12th and 29th of March.

The projects include:

  • Queen’s Square: The transformation of the Queen Street area into a new mixed-use urban quarter;
  • Castlegate/Castlehill: A vibrant public square reinvigorating Castlegate/Castlehill;
  • Denburn Valley: The reawakening of the Denburn Valley as the setting for a new generation of city living;
  • Heart of the City: Union Street gets the space it deserves through pedestrianisation of part of Aberdeen’s historic main street;
  • Union Street West: A contemporary business/retail/leisure feel to the west end of Union Street and the renovation of Golden Square and Bon Accord Square as accessible green spaces;
  • Station Gateway: A much enhanced gateway and better pedestrian routes to and from the railway station radically improving first impressions of Aberdeen;
  • South Dee: A new pedestrian bridge across the Dee to link to a new residential community at South Dee and enhanced riverside promenade;
  • North Dee: A significant new office and business quarter at North Dee.

More information is available on the City Centre Masterplan website pages.

The delivery of the Masterplan will be a major undertaking involving many of the Council’s Services and Teams over a period of many years. I am very keen to hear your views on this as a member of staff about what we need as a Council to make this happen, in particular relating to:

  1. Technical restrictions on delivery
  2. Capability to deliver
  3. Capacity to deliver

Give me your own thoughts and/or discuss with your colleagues and give me a team response, by sending a message to Louise MacSween –

As I said in my blog last week, I will be referring to the responses I receive from Council colleagues in my report to Council in May.

You may of course also wish to share your views on the proposals as a member of the public and the best way to do this will be through the upcoming programme of consultation events where the multi-million pound proposals will be showcased in and around Aberdeen from 14th to 29th March.

Further information will be available through e-mail, on the Zone and in further posts on this blog.  I urge you to take the chance to get involved.