Chief Executive's Blog

February 2017

Hello again everyone:

Most people dread January, a month of anti-climax after the festivities of Christmas and New Year and one which seems to drag out the dark winter months. But here we are through it already, with memories of the festive season receding into the far distance as we look forward to longer daylight hours and the first signs of spring.

I have no doubt that the next few weeks and months too will fly in as we face up to a busy period, beginning with the budget meeting in a couple of weeks’ time and with the work of the cross-party transition board continuing apace.

The board has been meeting weekly to look at the major issues likely to face the incoming council and what it can do to make the transition from this council to the next as smooth and trouble-free as possible.

Heads of service have been kept abreast of the board’s work, while in turn the board has hopefully benefited from feedback from the latest meeting of the leadership forum at which progress was reported on a number of important projects which are in the pipeline.

February 15 has been set as the date for the budget meeting and elected members will be working closely with council officers between then and now on the detail of what will, of course, be the current council’s final budget ahead of the elections on May 4.

Getting back into the swing of things is never easy early in the New Year but it has been good to get back into some sort of routine, with the usual round of meetings and engagements, both internal and external.

Among these was a meeting in Edinburgh, also attended by my counterparts from a number of other authorities, with the minister for local government and housing, Kevin Stewart, for an informal chat about various issues relating to his ministerial portfolio.

I was back in Edinburgh at the end of last week for the usual round of Cosla meetings which, in addition to the formal business, always provide an invaluable opportunity to exchange notes with representatives from the other Scottish councils on issues of common interest.

January also saw me take part in a teleconference with other members of the Northern Education Alliance where we discussed a wide range of topics which continue to exercise the minds of educationalists and others, not least the ongoing shortage of teachers being experienced by all local authorities north of the Central Belt.

One of the highlights of the month was undoubtedly the official opening of the new Glasgow School of Art campus at Altyre Estate, near Forres, to which I was fortunate enough to be invited.

You may recall me waxing lyrical about this cultural initiative a couple of months or so back after I was invited to a preview of the campus, and I make no apology for doing so again. Created from converted farm steadings, it is the realisation of a vision for the landowner, Sir Alistair Gordon Cumming, and represents an investment of some £2.5million, with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Historic Environment Scotland providing some of the funding.

It is a beautifully designed campus right in the heart of the Moray landscape and I’m sure it will prove to be an inspiration for all the many students it will welcome in the years to come. At the time of the opening ceremony there were around 100 students from around the world taking part in a winter school and similar programmes are planned for the months ahead. It is a wonderful facility which has put Moray well and truly on the map in terms of artistic excellence.

Finally, there was one dilemma I had to wrestle with the Saturday before last. I had been tempted to join the crowds at Borough Briggs for Elgin City Scottish Cup tie against Caley Thistle. However, that coincided with my son’s 21st birthday and the celebrations which had been arranged for that. In the end family came first and I forewent the football. Given the result, I made the right choice.

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