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Glasgow City Council

Chief Executive updates

Wednesday 4 May 2022

We can all have good days and bad days.

Sometimes mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, trauma, bereavement, sleep problems or lack of confidence can affect our time at work - and any one of us might need some support to help us feel better and to have more good days.

That's why the council has begun a new partnership with Able Futures - giving you access to free, confidential work-focused support from qualified mental health professionals.

The Access to Work mental health support service, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, includes regular appointments over nine months of personalised advice and guidance.

Professionals will work with you to build a plan to support your mental health by making adjustments, developing coping strategies and learning new ways to look after your wellbeing.

There is no waiting list and you don't need a mental health diagnosis. You can simply refer yourself and get confidential, free help with whatever is on your mind.

Looking out for our own mental health - and that of those around us - has always been important; but I want to also recognise how the last couple of years has presented us all with new challenges.

It's not just that some of us might have found working from home difficult; or attending a workplace stressful - although both will, undoubtedly, be true.

The simple fact is that all of us have our own tried and tested ways of coping with daily challenges.

But, over recent months and years, all of us will also have faced situations that were new to us, that we just might not have known how to navigate, and perhaps without the people we normally lean on for support.

If you think you might benefit, I really hope you will consider at least taking a looking at how Able Futures can help.

There is a lot of further information available on our staff web pages but, if you would rather just speak to someone in confidence, you can call them on 0800 321 3137, every weekday between 8am and 10.30pm.

You can also apply online here: https://able-futures.co.uk/mental-health-support-for-individuals/apply-for-able-futures

Please, also don't forget the existing support that is available to all our colleagues. Our Employee Assistance Provider, Workplace Options is available 24/7 on 0800 247 1100 - with dedicated lines for LGBT (0800 138 8725) and BME staff (0800 288 4950).

Wednesday 6 April 2022

As I write this, we are just one short month away from local government elections, which take place across Scotland on 5 May.

When you consider everything that has happened during the five years since the last round of council polls, it can feel like half a lifetime ago - but, by the same token, the time has passed in a flash.

By way of an example, the inaugural European Championships that lit up venues across Glasgow took place closer to the start of the coronavirus pandemic than this election.

And, while I think we would all hope for a less dramatic next term, there is no doubt that whatever comes next will test us, the council and the city, all the same.

We have another big sporting event to deliver next year, arguably our biggest yet, in the UCI Cycling World Championships - and, of course, economic and social recovery from covid will continue to be a priority.

All elections are important - and nobody should be in any doubt that council polls have a huge impact on local communities and services.

Any election also requires a huge amount of work from teams across the council, with around 1,000 people typically involved.

That starts with making sure Glaswegians are registered to vote and ends with running the final count at the Emirates Arena - but, along the way, includes a huge planning and logistics operation to make sure we deliver safe and secure elections the people of Glasgow can have confidence in.

They are one of the most important ways in which the public can have a say on the role their council plays in their local area and in their lives.

That's why one of the most significant tasks that will face us after May is to understand not just the result of an election, but what that means for how we work in the next five years - how we, as officers, engage with elected members to translate political pledges into policy and practice.

That's a challenge, but also an opportunity - an opportunity to get things right for our communities and those who rely on us and our colleagues.

I don't believe that people end up working in public service by mistake. I'm proud of you; as colleagues and as a team - and I want us all to be able to feel confident in showing the pride we feel in working for this great city every day.

As always, I would like to hear from you if you have any comments or ideas. You can contact me by emailing Annemarie@glasgow.gov.uk

 

Wednesday 2 March 2022

It is unlikely to have escaped your attention that this month marks two years of the coronavirus crisis having a direct impact on our daily lives - and on our work.

Scotland confirmed its first positive case of Covid-19 on 1 March, 2020. Less than a fortnight later, the country recorded it first death - just days after the World Health Organisation officially classified the virus as a pandemic.

Within seven days, we were making plans to close schools. 24 March was Glasgow's first day in lockdown.

I've written here before about how proud I am of how every part of the Glasgow Family responded to the unprecedented situation that unfolded - and, later, how we were able to play a crucial role in supporting the roll-out of testing and vaccinations.

Today, I am happy to be able to see how all that hard work is supporting so many people, including our own teams, in starting to return to some sort of normality.

Over the coming months, more and more of us will be able to spend more time back in our normal workplace - with capacity restrictions no longer required.

Wherever you work, if that has involved time working from home, your team will have the opportunity to find a balance that supports staff but also meets the needs of the service.

We won't get it absolutely right overnight - and that's why we expect teams to run-in their new hybrid arrangements until at least September, to allow managers and staff to test what does and doesn't work in each workplace.

That's going to take open minds and flexibility, from everyone. I'm pleased that our trade union colleagues support the approach we are taking.

It's important that those of us who ordinarily work in an office recognise that most of our colleagues, across the council, have either already returned to their workplace - or, in many cases, never left.

But I must admit I am, personally, looking forward to seeing more of you in person and more regularly. I'm also particularly keen to see how we can use this opportunity to better support and inspire team working and some of our youngest colleagues, who have started their careers in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

International Women's Day

I am delighted that once again the council will be supporting International Women's Day next Tuesday, 8 March.

IWD is an annual day of celebration where the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women are recognised globally.

This year, the council's IWD celebrations will be hosted by the Lean In Network and Dr Bridget McConnell, Chief Executive of Glasgow Life and will launch a programme of events to support women in the organisation, including our new Women In Leadership sessions; where staff will have the opportunity to hear women leaders across the Glasgow Family discuss their experiences and challenges.

You can register to take part here or by emailing leanin@glasgow.gov.uk

 

Wednesday 2 February 2022

We've been carrying out our annual budget consultation exercise over recent weeks and it is always enlightening to see what Glaswegians taking part in focus groups value most in council services.

As you might imagine, many citizens focus on the services they know they use or benefit from - for example, refuse collection. Those with children may be particularly interested in education.

Equally, it can be something of an eye-opener to understand what people believe councils are and are not responsible for - or the extent of our powers.

The last week gives us a great real-life example.

When storms struck at the end of January, engineers working to stabilise a tower at the former Trinity College building in the Park district raised the alarm.

Along with our expert Building Control team, they agreed it was at risk of collapse - putting dozens of surrounding homes in danger.

Our Resilience Unit played a key role in co-ordinating the net steps. Roads were closed and diversions devised by your colleagues in NRS. HSCP and catering staff manned a rest centre at the Kelvin Hall as emergency services supported an emergency evacuation.

Where people were not provided with somewhere else to stay, either by their insurer or a landlord, and found themselves temporarily homeless, we stepped in to put a roof over their heads.

I'm very proud of the quick, comprehensive, and caring response our teams delivered. However, realistically, few if any of these tasks are in the minds of many of the wider public when they think about what councils do in their communities.

I won't be the only person who, watching an exclusion zone being set up around a historic building in the city centre, was reminded of two fires at Glasgow School of Art.

Coincidentally, the latest incident happened just days after the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service published the results of its painstaking investigation into the second blaze.

In that case, residents and businesses were understandably anxious to return to their homes and their livelihoods - but experts, including our own Building Control team, calculated that the fire-ravaged building was in imminent danger of collapse.

Although many would have been concerned for Mackintosh's building itself; our focus was on public safety.

In the event of a collapse, the structure would not have politely folded in on itself - every strong wind and every sway threatened a scenario where tonne upon tonne of stone would have crashed into the streets and buildings below.

The recent SFRS investigation report tells its own story. The fire was so fierce and so extensive, there is barely any evidence to support a conclusion on how it started. The damage to the building was so extensive that even highly trained, experienced firefighters and investigators could not enter.

I know many of our colleagues found the weeks and months after that fire a very challenging experience. At times, it was difficult to escape the feeling that they were being held responsible for the consequences of a fire they didn't cause in a building they didn't manage.

The report makes it clear they did exactly what was required to protect their fellow Glaswegians from harm. That is what they are doing again today.

Time to Talk

Across the council, it has never been so important as it is now to reach out and support each another.

Every very small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference and the Time to Talk campaign, which was launched this week, gives us a chance to put this into practice.

I would encourage everyone to get involved by safely connecting with a colleague for a cup of tea and a chat - you can find out more here: https://glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=26452

 

Wednesday 12 January, 2022

Happy New Year - I hope you had a good Christmas, if you were celebrating, and were able to enjoy some sort of break over the holidays. 

It's something of an understatement to say that 2022 is a year that will see the city and the council face some significant challenges.

Every indication from across local government in Scotland is that councils face very difficult decisions in setting their budgets this year - and implementing the measures that are made by elected members next month may be far from easy.

The next few months are also the final stretch in the five-year term of this Council so, just a few weeks after the budget, we will enter the formal pre-election period; before the city goes to the polls in May.

Registering voters and running an election is a huge logistical task, in any case, but electing a new Council brings its own unique challenges.

Although you would expect many of our current elected members to return to the City Chambers; there will also be significant numbers of new councillors - and, whatever the result, there will be new ideas and priorities for us all to respond to.

It is also remarkable to realise that 2022 will be the third calendar year during which we will have to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although recent weeks have, undoubtedly, proven to be difficult for public services - and, of course, nowhere more so than among the health and care sectors - there is cause for hope and also pride in the efforts that have been made to protect our communities.

Although experts will study the data for years to come, it seems clear that while the Omicron variant has moved quickly and caused many infections, including among those who had previously been unwell, the severity of that illness is often less.

So, while frontline services are stretched by absences, often they are shorter - and sometimes dictated by isolation rules, rather than the period of sickness. 

There is a degree of merciful good fortune in that - but we shouldn't forget that our ability to manage this latest phase of the pandemic rests heavily on the hard work of the last two years.

In particular, the fact that so many of us - including an overwhelming proportion of our most vulnerable friends, family and neighbours - have been able to be vaccinated has made the difference between a very difficult and a desperate situation.

It would be foolish to imagine that Omicron will be the last challenge that the pandemic will throw in our direction, but I remain extremely proud of the efforts made by colleagues across the council family to respond to the needs of Glaswegians.

 

Wednesday 22 December 2021

We're almost at the end of another year.  And what a year this has been!

We entered our second year of dealing with a pandemic which has impacted the whole world. There's no doubt it's been an extremely challenging time - for governments, organisations and individuals. Life has changed for everyone - at work and in our personal life.

I'd like to thank you for helping the council family to deal with the challenges that we've faced in these difficult times. I really appreciate the commitment and professionalism that you have shown to the organisation and to the city.

Since the onset of the pandemic, many staff across the organisation have had to find new ways of working in order to continue to deliver the vital services that keep our city moving and support our citizens, many of them vulnerable.

Teams have had to adapt the way they do things to keep in touch with one another, with service users, and with the many partner organisations that we work with.  Many staff changed roles in order to support business delivery, and many of us have had to upskill ourselves and become more adept at using technology to help us do our jobs remotely.

Throughout 2021, as in the previous nine months, there have been highs and lows. But there's no doubt that - despite Covid-19 - we have all done a great job.

Hosting major international events was always going to be a challenge during a pandemic.  But in the summer, we hosted UEFA EURO 2020 which brought football teams and supporters from all over Europe to the city.

And in November we successfully hosted a major global event - the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) which turned the world's spotlight on the city. The name 'Glasgow' will forever by associated with this event in a year where Climate Change has been on everyone's lips. 

Throughout COP26, we were able to showcase the many innovative initiatives that we, and our partners, are supporting which will help to reduce the city's carbon footprint and make Glasgow a cleaner, greener city; our aim is to be one of the most sustainable cities in Europe and we are making good progress.

Alongside these big events, we continued to deliver services for our citizens and for everyone who comes here to work, study, visit and enjoy. 

There's no doubt that Covid-19 is continuing to keep us on our toes, not least with the rise of the new Omicron variant. Thankfully, things have progressed from last year and we now have a vaccine, and the ongoing rollout of the booster campaign. It's important that as many of us as possible roll up our sleeves for these vaccinations which help to protect us and the people around us. And of course, many staff are working hard to deliver the rollout of the vaccination programme.

As we all prepare to enjoy the festive season - bearing in mind the government's Covid advice and restrictions - I'd like to thank you for your hard work and commitment to supporting the organisation through another challenging year. Let's hope that 2022 brings positive changes in terms of the pandemic and that we can see a return to some degree of normality next year.

I wish you all the best for the festive period; enjoy time away from work and time with friends and family. And a special thank you to those staff who will be working over the holidays to make sure that we continue to provide essential and valuable services for the city.

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

 

Annemarie O'Donnell

Chief Executive

Wednesday 1 December 2021

We are approaching the end of another remarkable year and, with it, the final months of this council term.

At this point in 2020, Glasgow was subject to the strictest level of coronavirus restrictions - and, along with half of the population of Scotland, looking forward to a modest relaxation of those measures before Christmas.

However, no sooner had this happened than the emergence of new variants and a national spike in cases saw new protections rolled out - and, with a Glasgow cluster emerging in the New Year, it would be several months before many businesses could substantially reopen and people across the city could begin to mix more freely with friends and loved ones.

And, although we are once again confronted with the challenge of a new variant and uncertainty over what kind of protections will be necessary over the winter; it is worth stopping to consider how much has changed - and how much you and your colleagues have achieved - in the last 12 months.

Of course, we have just hosted COP26 - an event that had itself been due to take place last year. Glasgow was also a successful part of a delayed Euro 2020 tournament.

Holding elections in the midst of a pandemic was also a significant challenge and one the city met - with improved turnouts in every constituency.

However, one of the most significant programmes supported by the council during 2021 was just getting underway in December last year.

Just weeks before the end of the year, the first vaccines were beginning to be approved for, initially, our most vulnerable - and those who care for them.

Twelve months later, almost every Glaswegian has had the opportunity to be vaccinated; with the council family playing a critical role in the roll-out.

From providing and making ready venues in every corner of the city to getting people out to drop-in vaccination centres, colleagues have played a really important role in making sure our communities are protected.

And, although Glasgow has had some of the lowest infection rates anywhere in the country during recent weeks - indeed, the lowest when new cases per population dropped below even Shetland in November - that work continues today, as the booster programme is widened and accelerated.

It has been a great job and everyone involved can feel very proud of their part in delivering for so many of our citizens.

This has been another extraordinarily difficult year, but that successful roll-out of vaccines is a big part of why we are able to look forward with a bit of hope.

I hope each of you can take some time to rest and relax with friends and loved ones over the end of the year; particularly if that is something you were unable to do last year.

Wednesday 17 November 2021

After an extraordinary two weeks for the city, COP26 is over and the world must start to get to grips with the new Glasgow Climate Pact.

The agreement that bears our city's name is, undeniably, imperfect - nobody who saw and understood what last-minute qualifications and caveats on the use of coal meant for those representing low-lying islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean could sensibly argue otherwise.

However, it also breaks new ground for the planet - keeping alive the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C or below and going further than any previous accord to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

COP26's significance to Glasgow is threefold - as a city, as an event host and as a leader among communities addressing climate change.

Glasgow has set ambitious carbon reduction targets - aiming for net zero in 2030, decades before many countries. But, without doubt, it also needs strong progress to be made on the national and international stage.

Both will have a huge influence, not only on how hard climate change impacts our city - but on the opportunities we will have to invest in a low carbon future.

It was, of course, important that the city perform well as an event host - and I have no doubt that we did.

Despite extraordinary challenges, Glasgow played its part in delivering the biggest event in its history - the biggest event of its kind, anywhere - in a manner that has prompted widespread praise.

I can't tell you how proud I have been to hear so many people from every part of the world, many of the veterans of these conferences, talk so warmly about Glasgow.

Many of you played a direct role in that success, but it is only right that I mention a small team - mostly working out of Eastgate - that have been living and breathing every aspect of COP26 for the last year.

But we're not done yet.

Although the intense, in-person talks are over; Glasgow remains the COP host city until the 27th conference takes place in Egypt next year - and intends to take that role seriously for every last day.

The last few weeks have made clearer than ever the importance of cities in finding solutions to the climate emergency. Across the political spectrum and from across the globe, city leaders met in Glasgow with common cause and a shared understanding of what is at stake for their citizens.

That work and those relationships cannot and will not end now. Delivering on the Glasgow Climate Pact is a challenge for us all.

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Within weeks, world leaders and thousands of other delegates will arrive in Glasgow for COP26 - the United Nations conference that is often described as humanity's 'best last chance' to avert cataclysmic climate change.

The event was originally due to take place in 2020 but, such is its importance, organisers were not prepared to hold a virtual event when the Covid pandemic made it impossible to meet face-to-face.

I'm not the first person to make the point - but this is a period in which Glasgow, along with the rest of the world, is faced with two existential challenges.

While science tells us that pandemics happen; the coronavirus crisis was, for most of us, unpredictable. We can plan to have robust healthcare and public services that can adapt to new and difficult circumstances - but we can't know exactly what the shock will be or when it will make itself felt.

The effects of climate change, however, are not a surprise. They are an inevitability. In many cases they are already happening, we can see them - and we can begin to understand how they will have an impact on our city and our daily lives.

So, what does the experience of coronavirus tell us about how to approach a changing climate?

It's not simply about understanding how we harness the same determination and will to meet the challenge - although that is, undeniably, something to consider - but how the pressing need to recover from the shock of a global pandemic can also help drive the change we need to protect our homes, jobs and futures from environmental disaster.

For example, the council recently launched its Greenprint - a £30 billion investment prospectus that sits firmly in that space.

It sets out key projects that can stimulate our economy and enhance the lives of Glaswegians now and for generations to come; but also ensures each one will also play a part in reducing emissions and meeting our ambitious environmental ambitions.

The projects it covers are diverse - from public infrastructure like a Glasgow Metro, to overhauling how we heat our own homes.

Every city needs this kind of investment and every city will know it lies far beyond what is possible within existing municipal budgets.

However, we believe Glasgow is the first city, certainly in the UK, to be able to quantify and articulate a list of priorities - and the benefits they will return for its people.

The Greenprint will be the city's calling card when the world converges on Glasgow for COP26. In the emerging world of green investment, we want to use this unique opportunity to talk to and influence the financiers that are trying to figure out how to make a new, low carbon economy.

The challenge is not just to recover, but not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

 

Thursday 2 September 2021

A few days ago, Glasgow set a target to eliminate fatal accidents and serious injuries on city roads by the end of this decade.

At first glance, it may appear to be an unusual aspiration. Why, after all, would any community aim for anything other than zero road deaths?

But the fact is that such a target would have been unthinkable up until relatively recently.

Road safety in the city has been steadily improving over the past decade, with the number killed or seriously injured in general decline.  However, in 2019 that still meant that nine people died and 160 were seriously injured as a consequence of road traffic collisions.

Each and every one of those serious injuries and deaths is a tragedy - and, most painfully, an avoidable one.

However, to put the figures in context, in the four years covering the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s there were 2,667 fatalities on Scotland's roads.

The cost to the NHS was reckoned to top £608 million every year. Adjusted for inflation, that's equivalent to roughly £1.6 billion in 2021. The cost to families was, as it is now, incalculable.

While statistics from the time show that rural areas - with fast main roads and fewer streetlights or safe pathways - tended to suffer the worst mortality rates, Glasgow was often an urban outlier; recording fewer overall fatalities than districts like Banff & Buchan or Lochaber, but sometimes double what experts believed was the 'expected' number of deaths.

Despite improvements, by the end of the 1990s an average year would still see nearly 80 Glaswegians lose their lives in road accidents every year - with nearly 500 total casualties.

To be in a position to even contemplate achieving zero deaths within 30 years is nothing short of remarkable.

Of course, road safety awareness; brilliant medical care for those who do suffer an accident; good policing and safe driving all play a role in avoiding or lessening the impact of accidents; but the truth is human error is and probably always will be a factor in most serious incidents.

That is why the work we do to make the city's road network one that not only minimises the likelihood of collisions but also the consequences of those that do happen so important. 

We know that a failure to look - by both those in charge of vehicles and pedestrians - is the most common cause for collisions. And, while the occupants of cars represent the largest overall number of casualties from road incidents, pedestrians - and in particular older pedestrians - are most vulnerable to serious injury or fatality.

A huge majority of collisions, some 92%, occur within a 30mph limit. More than 70% happen in fine weather - with similar numbers in daylight.

70% of cycling casualties occurred at a junction and 86% also involved a car.

A new road safety plan for the city, developed alongside Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue, identifies a range of measures essential for the creation of a 'Safe System'.

These include improved road safety engineering, enforcement, introducing safety cameras at key locations, initiatives that improve road safety around city schools, education projects, cycle training schemes and road safety campaigns.

And we already have evidence of these sort of steps working - and, undoubtedly, saving lives.

Glasgow currently has 82 zones with a lower speed limit of 20mph. They cover a total of 288km of carriageway, including the city centre - and analysis by the police shows a 31% reduction in accidents since their introduction.

We are targeting zero deaths or serious injuries by 2030 - but the work of colleagues in NRS and across the council has, unquestionably, already prevented scores of accidents and saved many lives.

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