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

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 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.