As 2022 draws to a close I want to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful staff for their efforts once again in delivering our vital services to the citizens of Glasgow.
We began the year with yet another covid strain but as the days got lighter, we also started to see improvements in the pandemic and a glimpse of a return to a more normal way of life.
It is nearly three years since we first heard the word coronavirus, and I am so proud of how we have responded to these unprecedented and challenging times.
And, how we have adapted our ways of working to meet the needs of this evolving council era.
This has included embracing a hybrid way of working, for those of the workforce who can still deliver their work remotely and in the office and rising to the demands and positive lessons learned from the covid emergency.
We know that next year will bring its own challenges as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite and as a council we have already set the scene on budget squeezes that are out with our control.
This will not be an easy time for us.
But I know that you will all rise to these challenges as we always do.
We are a resilient and strong team - and together we will find solutions for the people of Glasgow.
We also have a lot to look forward to in the new year - including playing host to the UCI Cycling Worlds in the summer - as well as being crowned European Capital of Sport 2023.
This will bring the world spotlight back to our city and I know that we will be wonderful hosts - we certainly have had so much practice in the last few years!
This has been another busy year for us all, so first please relax away from work and enjoy the festive period with your families and friends and enjoy the freedom and excitement that our first, post-covid Christmas and New Year allows us to embrace.
But not forgetting the teams who will be working over the holiday period to support and help continue essential council services in our city - thank you for your continued dedication to deliver this vital work.
I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a peaceful 2023.
The cost-of-living crisis has dominated the headlines for many months now and unfortunately no one will escape the challenges this will bring to families and businesses across the city for many more months to come.
In October, we announced a series of council and voluntary venues - including libraries and community centres - which have been designated Welcome Places where we will offer alternative solutions and a place for people to feel secure, warm, with company, and with a friendly face available to help.
Welcome Places are part of a range of planned packages to help target our services to help Glaswegians.
It includes the Council's ambitious five-year strategic plan - approved last week at full council that puts the challenges and aspirations of Glasgow's people and communities at the heart of every council decision.
The plan will shape our response to the cost-of-living crisis, the climate emergency, and pressures on public services, as well as increasing the prosperity and wellbeing of everyone.
It will also ensure that people are central to how the decisions affecting their communities are taken by the council.
There are four key challenges and more than 230 commitments on how all council services will help address, support, and deliver on the city's main priorities.
The four grand challenges which have been identified as the reduction poverty and inequalities, increasing opportunity and prosperity for all citizens, addressing the climate emergency, and delivering a just transition, and enabling staff to deliver essential services in a sustainable, innovative, and efficient way for our communities.
In a move away from previous council plans, the City Government will revisit the plan annually to ensure it remains fit for purpose and to update commitments in line with changing circumstances.
It outlines missions that cover ambitious aims including ending child poverty, improving the health and wellbeing of local communities, supporting residents into sustainable and fair work, delivering sustainable transport, become a net zero carbon city by 2030, create safe, clean, and thriving neighbourhoods, raising attainment amongst children and young people, and running an open, well governed council in partnership with all our communities.
The plan will touch all of our jobs and what we deliver over the next five years and I would urge you to you have a look at the different aims and missions outlined and how it will impact your role - you can read the plan here: https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/agenda.asp?meetingid=18411
On a similar vein, we have also recently published our summary Annual Performance Report 2021 - 2022.
The report outlines the annual progress of our last strategic plan and forms part of a wider batch of information that we make available as part of our public performance framework.
You can read the report that went to the latest Operational Performance and Delivery Scrutiny Committee and presented at City Administration Committee this week - read the report here https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/agenda.asp?meetingid=18407
In the early months of the last council term, we made settling Glasgow's historic equal pay claims a priority - eventually making payments worth more than £500 million to thousands of workers in 2019.
We always knew that would leave us with another negotiation within a few years; to settle new claims that were not made in time to be included first time around - and also ongoing liabilities, which would continue to accrue until we were able to implement a new pay and grading system.
Now, in the early months of this term, all of that work is taking another big step forward.
A new pay scheme can only be designed following the job evaluation process that has been underway for some time - and was, unfortunately, disrupted by the pandemic - but we are preparing by setting up a new project team.
It is developing an implementation plan, with input from our trades unions and we hope to be able to approve a new scheme next year, with the first pay date currently anticipated to be by April 2024.
We are also negotiating with claimants' representatives to settle the remaining claims - from earlier years and up to the implementation of the new scheme.
That is a complex job, but there is a shared commitment from all sides to make progress. That is really significant because it will be settling these claims and implementing a new pay scheme that will, in tandem, finally bring an end to the equal pay litigation against the council.
It is important to remember that, even when key issues in the negotiations are resolved and an agreement reached in principle, a significant amount of work will need to be undertaken to process offers and payments.
Of course, all of this comes at a price - and possibly the biggest step forward we have taken in recent weeks is to agree a funding strategy for meeting the cost of claims.
At the end of September, members agreed to use the value in some of our buildings to raise around £200 million of a total £270 million pot.
This is the same way we financed compensation offers in 2019 - with City Property borrowing the cash to buy assets from the council, then leasing them back to us.
We do this because City Property can borrow differently than the council - but crucially, because we own the company, buildings like the City Chambers and Kelvingrove never leave public ownership and can continue to be used just as they always have been.
Venues like Emirates Arena, City Halls and the Riverside Museum have been operating this way for years, with no impact on Glaswegians' ability to access them and enjoy them as they always have.
The cost to the council will be in the lease payments we make to City Property and, taking into account both deals, those are very significant amounts - but it is essential that we meet our obligations on equal pay, because it is right for our workforce and because it helps protects the council from further, costly litigation.
Information about equal pay, job evaluation and pay and grading is also on the website under latest news at www.glasgow.gov.uk/staffupdates
A cost of living crisis that began last year seems to deepen by the day.
Over the course of this year, inflation rates that most of us haven't experienced in our adult lives have seen prices soar.
And, although you can see the impact quite easily in something like your weekly food shop, a huge amount of the pain for most people is coming from unprecedented increases in their energy bills.
Typical bills this summer are now higher than they normally would be in winter - and it is predicted that the average household will be looking at yearly bills well over £5,000 by early next year.
I think we have to acknowledge that this isn't about families needing to cut their cloth, or tighten their belts - although I'm sure households across the city are keenly looking for ways to do just that.
And, of course, these sort of price increases hit the less well off hardest. Unless you live in a mansion, it doesn't cost much more to heat an expensive home than a more modest one - maybe even less, if it is well insulated or equipped with modern, efficient heating.
Those with the least are also more likely to use a prepayment meter; and they don't have the option of spreading some of the biggest bills over a longer period using direct debit. They need cash now, or the lights go out.
We've seen predictions of energy bills outstripping people's mortgage or rent payments. Other have said they will use up half of families' disposable income.
Many of you will know a family that had little or no disposable income to begin with.
The simple fact is that Glasgow has more households that are deeply vulnerable to this sort of crisis than most towns or cities.
Despite massive investment in the city's housing stock, of which we can be rightly proud, between three and four households out of every ten were already in fuel poverty before the current spike in prices.
44% of our citizens live in the 20% most deprived communities in Scotland. More than a quarter of our children are growing up in families that are, on average, living on £121 a week below the poverty line.
The economic impact is also stark. Many employers, just starting to find their feet again after the pandemic, are facing an unsustainable increase in their overheads.
When we received million to support city businesses to recover from covid, we made sure it also put money in the pockets of tens of thousands of Glaswegians - and tried to keep as much of that as possible in the city economy, with the Scotland Loves Local card.
When we created cost-of-living projects and funds in our budget earlier this year we might not have dared imagine things would now be as bleak as they now are for many; but it does mean we are ready to react as best we can.
Some of these build on work we did and partnerships we built during the pandemic - and I don't want anyone to be under any illusion that this crisis is not every bit as great a threat to the health and the wellbeing of our communities and the people we serve.
I know this is also having an impact on all of us, as well as the people we serve. We have been working hard, along with the city's politicians, to agree a funding package which allows COSLA to make a pay offer which will deal with the worst of the effects of the crisis. We are also looking at other measures we can take as we move towards what will undoubtedly be a difficult winter.
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.
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.