The privilege of serving this city

Fifteen years ago I was first elected to serve this city as a councillor.

In little over a week, I will leave the Town House, having made the decision not to stand for re-election when we go to the polls next week.

Some days it seems like only yesterday that I became an Elected Member but such is the intensity of the job that on others it feels as though I’ve done nothing else!

The first major role I assumed was education convener and it proved to be one of the most rewarding, especially working directly with schools.

We must do everything we can to give our young people every opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of their background or circumstance.

The only limit should be their ambition.

Not everyone starts out on an equal footing, however. Although Aberdeen remains a prosperous place, there are significant pockets of deprivation, and that can affect family life.

People want to lift themselves out of poverty – and by offering residents access to support, we can help make that happen.

The Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP) is perhaps the most valuable document we have. It is a blueprint for combating inequality through partnership working.

If I have one message for incoming councillors, it would be to treat the LOIP, drawn up in response to what communities told us they needed, as essential reading.

Eight years ago it was my honour to become leader of Aberdeen City Council.

At the same time, our chief executive Angela Scott came into post, and we’ve worked closely together ever since.

Angela’s drive, innovation and strategic approach has transformed both the council and Aberdeen, and the city is incredibly fortunate to have her.

Our chief executive would be the first to acknowledge the contribution of her senior management team, whose diligence, hard work and enthusiasm filters through the council.

Day in, day out, our staff deliver a top quality service.

I remain immensely proud of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the readiness with which people embraced different roles and volunteered to be part of the relief effort, something we saw again during recent winter storms.

Highlights of my time as leader include securing the City Region Deal. Well, it’s not every day you sign up for £250 million – even if I’d hoped for a wee bit more!

I also remember the satisfaction in hearing that our ground-breaking council bond had been oversubscribed and realising that people everywhere saw Aberdeen as a good bet for the future.

There have been lows, of course.

When things do go wrong, our first duty is always to help those directly affected – and in the aftermath to critically examine our own role in events, to understand what we might do better.

Since announcing that I was standing down, I’ve been flattered by the kind words of colleagues, even from those who have stood opposite and argued against me in the chamber.

In truth, I think all councillors are motivated by the same desire – to do their very best for the people of Aberdeen, even though they may disagree about how best to achieve that.

I will miss the debates, then. I will the miss the people and friendships.

Most of all I will miss the interaction with communities, talking to folk and hearing what they want from their council, especially in my capacity as ward councillor for Midstocket and Rosemount.

It has been my privilege to serve you all.