The first Council meeting after the recess has taken place today, schools went back this week and given the weather we’re having at the moment you’d be forgiven for thinking that autumn has already arrived. If you’ve already had a summer holiday, I hope it was a good one and you were able to recharge the batteries in the company of family or friends. If you’re still to have your break, enjoy and remember us back here at work wondering whether or not to put the heating on.
As ever, there is of course plenty to do over the coming weeks and months. The members today agreed the recommendations for the second phase of the restructure and work now begins both on filling Heads of Service posts and working up proposals for the third phase which will be taken back to committee for approval within two cycles. Please do take the opportunity to get involved in helping to shape the proposals. The revised committee structure has also been agreed today and it will be introduced from 8th October. As I’ve said before, I’m very keen to move on from discussion about structure to concentrate on working with you to build a culture within the Council that sees us support each other in providing the very best outcomes for the people of Aberdeen. Watch this space, as they say!
Plenty for all of us to do before Christmas.
It’s shaping up to be an exciting week for the council, as we embark on Shaping Aberdeen – a new plan to promote the developments and improvements we are delivering for the city.
Shaping Aberdeen emphasises the key priorities identified in the Strategic Infrastructure Plan: housing, transport, connectivity, city image, and skills. We will use it to highlight significant new developments to Aberdeen residents and businesses.
Shaping Aberdeen is a long-term plan building on established strong foundations, demonstrating the city’s strengths and ongoing improvement, with residents in mind. I think it is very important that we communicate directly with the people of Aberdeen to show them what we are doing to improve the city and build on its successes.
We’ll outline and promote a broad range of projects, including our new housing developments, schools, roads infrastructure, digital connectivity and high-speed broadband, regeneration projects, the proposed new AECC, and the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project.
I want to make sure the people of Aberdeen and visitors to the city are informed about how the public pound is being spent and can see at a glance what’s happening in the city as it continues to grow, develop and regenerate.
Shaping Aberdeen is a new way of communicating with the city and we’ll be using a range of means, including social media, the mainstream media, email, and an exciting marketing campaign to get our message across. You’ll soon see a range of messages appearing across the city.
I am really pleased that the internship scheme for young people that I wrote about in my last blog has had such an impact both inside and outside the Council.
Carole Jackson (Housing & Environment) sent me the following message having read the blog:-
I think this is a great initiative giving these young people an opportunity that is more easily available to those in more fortunate circumstances, and it was very heartening to read. I wondered if it could be enhanced by giving these young people some assistance and coaching in completing job and college applications and interview techniques, to help them find something more permanent after their internship ends. This could be offered through the Council’s HR service, third sector organisations, or the Joint North East Public Sector Mentoring Scheme. I am one of the mentors in the mentoring scheme and would happily undertake any further training needed to be able to provide mentoring to young or unemployed people in this capacity – as I am sure would many of the other volunteer mentors.
But even as it stands, a great idea – well done to all concerned!
Kiemon is now in touch with Carole and the scheme continues to evolve and expand.
Team work in action.
A tremendous end to the week as I joined the Council Leader, elected members, trades union officials and Council colleagues at the Kittybrewster depot to launch our new scheme designed to help young people looked after by the local authority into the world of work. Pairs of young people are being given the opportunity to take part in 12-week supported work placements introducing them to a range of trades including fleet maintenance, plumbing, carpentry, joinery, electrical work and painting and decorating.
I’m passionately committed to ensuring that we in the Council excel in fulfilling our role as corporate parents and I am very proud that we have been able to introduce this new programme of activity. It’s a superb example of partnership working between Directorates and with trades union colleagues and is testament to what we can achieve together when we share the goal of making a difference for the people we are here to serve.
I must also say how impressed I am at how quickly colleagues were able to progress the scheme from an idea to the point where two young people will be turning up for their first day at the depot. On 24 June, following a visit to the Willows Children’s Home I suggested to Maxine McGlinchey (Social Care & Wellbeing) and Kiemon Stewart (Housing & Environment) that they might be able jointly to bring together an internship scheme. On Monday 28 July the scheme begins. Fantastic work by Max and Kiemon and everyone else who has played a role in making this exciting project a reality.
As we’re now into the second of the four weeks of consultation on phase 2 of the restructure of the council’s management arrangements, I wanted to take the opportunity to once again invite you to join the conversation and let me know what you think of the proposed groupings of functions that are suggested for the Heads of Service.
I’m interested to hear from you about what you think will work, where you think there might be opportunities to do something different and as importantly what pitfalls should be avoided.
I appreciate that restructures can cause anxiety and have the potential to be destabilising, but I and the rest of the CMT aim to work at a pace that both offers the opportunity for meaningful engagement while at the same time allowing decisions to be taken so that we can move on to the next stage.
Phase 3 will be of direct, personal interest to many more of you across the council than the first two phases and I will ensure that there are ample opportunities for feedback and discussion as the Directors and Heads of Service get to grips with the detailed structures to be put in place within the Heads of Service portfolios.
One final point, the way we structure ourselves is clearly important and the changes that are proposed are necessary and will in my view improve outcomes for the people we all serve, but to my mind as important if not more important is the way we go about our business. The culture of the organisation and the inter-relationships between us within the Council are key to our success and that is where my focus will be as we move forward.
I look forward to our conservation on that topic.
Opera in the Park
One of the last pieces of business agreed by elected members before council went into recess for the summer was the sign-off of the 2013-14 financial year accounts by our Audit and Risk Committee.
It’s always a good feeling to finally close the annual accounts, particularly for an organisation as large as ours and with such complex financial reporting. Great credit and many thanks are due to all our finance colleagues for their hard work in achieving this.
What is remarkable about our financial reporting is the story it tells about Aberdeen City Council.
Whilst many councils across the UK are seeking annual budget cuts that run into the tens of million pounds, Aberdeen City Council is in a strong financial place and I’m delighted to be able to say that, for the third year running, no further cuts have been required to balance the budget.
This outcome was projected twelve months ago and throughout the last year we did not stray from these projections. These final figures also include maintaining £5.5 million in our risk fund to ensure we build additional layers of resilience around our spending. This impressive position is testament to the commitment of many colleagues across the council, as well as across our arms length organisations, for their focus on delivering results for those we serve while ensuring value for money is achieved in everything we do.
However like all other local authorities we will continue to face financial pressures. These challenges are the result of the on-going austerity measures introduced to ease pressure on and encourage growth in the UK economy. It’s vital is that we continue our work to mitigate the impact of these pressures in the 2016-17 financial year. Where we may differ from other councils is in the comprehensive control and monitoring of our financial spend and our careful preparation and planning to future-proof the council as much as possible.
It is the responsibility of all of us to maintain this strong control of our finances and it is only by continuing to apply robust controls that we will continue to meet these challenges successfully. Our recent track record suggests to me that we can face these challenges with justified confidence.
This week, as I formally take up the reins as Chief Executive, I’ve been reflecting on three different excursions I’ve had over the last months.
Last month, the corporate management team visited Braehead School, we met many children throughout the day and you couldn’t help but be impressed by how happy, confident and enthusiastic they were about their school. A lot of credit must go to all the staff working at Braehead for creating the right environment for learning. We also met some older children from the Bridge of Don Academy who took the opportunity to raise a number of issues with us. CMT is currently drafting its follow up response to the kids in a “you said, we did” format.
A week ago I had the pleasure of being the guest of four young chefs who had organised a ‘Come Dine With Me’ as part of a series of fundraising events to raise funds for CLAN. Again our committed staff were involved in supporting these kids to achieve a very personal goal.
Finally on Friday, I attended the AGM of the Inchgarth Community Centre. I was pleased to be asked to present awards to three young adults whose voluntary efforts were being celebrated.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know, in a very small way, different communities within Aberdeen and it has been a helpful reminder of the need for me to keep these strong and vibrant communities at the heart of my thinking. It’s also been great to see our colleagues making a difference in the everyday lives of children.
Thank you to everyone I’ve met over these three visits for the hospitality and kindness I’ve received.
This week has been very difficult for us all at Aberdeen City Council. Following the allegation made regarding baby and adult cremations at Hazlehead Crematorium, I have been reflecting on the impact it has had across the city and the wider North-east and the effect on all of us working for the Council.
The shock and grief of bereavement is both intensely personal and something that can be shared by a whole community. For many it never goes away. The fact that this allegation has distressed members of our community, some possibly our own staff, affects all of us.
Compassion and understanding must be at the heart of everything that we do within Aberdeen City Council. We all have a determination to serve the citizens of Aberdeen and to serve them well. I appreciate the seriousness of the allegation that has been made, and their widespread and profound impact. I also know that public trust may be lost if it is found that a failure to provide a proper service has hurt families, some of whom may be our own colleagues. I understand that trust may be difficult to regain. However, regain it we must.
Over the months and years ahead further challenges will arise because council services play such a huge and often very personal role in the lives of our citizens. How we, all of us, react to and resolve these situations will be how our community judges us.
My thoughts remain with those families affected by the uncertainty of what may have happened at Hazlehead Crematorium. I promise that we will provide all the support and help that we can to those affected and that we will be open and honest during the inquiry process.
Angela Scott has been appointed to the role of Chief Executive (Designate) for the period 1 to 30 June 2014. In this role she also becomes Head of the Paid Service for the council on an interim basis. Valerie Watts leaves the employment of the City Council on 30 June and on 1 July Angela begins work in her substantive role as Chief Executive.
This is Angela’s blog for all council staff. You are invited to comment and can do so by registering on this site.
I’m Angela Scott and I’m delighted and proud to say I’m the Chief Executive (Designate) of Aberdeen City Council. This blog is my way of making sure I’m in contact with all staff, wherever I may be and whatever your location is across the city. There are 9000 staff and only one of me so I’m hoping that by using this blog I have a way of keeping in contact with all of you. You can visit this blog on a computer, tablet or even your mobile and you don’t need to use a council email address. The only thing I do ask is we keep the questions and dialogue exclusively for council colleagues and for this you have to register. You can find out how to do this by filling out the registration form below. Please visit this blog regularly. I’m aiming to post every couple or weeks or so and will try to read all your comments and answer any questions you may have.