Cascade February 2021

In this edition

Chief Executive Update

If you Pippa Milneever go on a training course on dealing with emergencies, there’s a chance that responding to a situation and recovering from its effects will be discussed as two separate stages in an organisation’s work.

This is not the case with the covid-19 pandemic: dealing with that is about juggling work to respond to its demands right now, with planning for the area’s recovery from it, while also continuing vital business as usual.

This is a huge undertaking, possible only through sheer hard work and teamwork – and I see both every day in how employees across the council are supporting our communities.

Together we are a great team for Argyll and Bute to have its back, and I would like to pay tribute to the amazing efforts you are making to deliver what area the needs from us just now, by highlighting some examples in this edition of Cascade. 

Thank you to everyone working so hard and so well – teamwork will get us back to better times.

COVID Response - Teamwork

David Logan, Chair of the Tactical Group
David Logan, Chair of the Tactical Group

The Tactical Group brings together services from across the council, from Emergency Planning, Property, Finance, Transport and Communication, to Education, ICT, Welfare Support, Community Development, Environmental Health and others. We co-ordinate a huge range of issues for example:

-Transferring staff from one service to another to issue grants to local businesses as quickly as possible; getting food and medicine to people who couldn’t get it for themselves; ordering PPE for health and social care colleagues; taking steps to make council offices safe for use when possible, and to make it possible for employees to work from home; communicating with communities; making arrangements for child care for key workers; and adapting education services for blended learning.

This group is a great example of teamwork. Services talking with each other and delivering solutions together has been key in delivering the support needed from us by communities and partners.

COVID response – long term working

Ross McLaughlin, Chair of the Recovering Council group
Ross McLaughlin, Chair of the Recovering Council group

Restrictions mean that anyone who can work from home should do that. We know from feedback to surveys that a lot of employees would like this to become, to some extent or another, the ‘new normal’.

A range of services, such as Property, HR, ICT, Roads and Infrastructure, Education and Health and Safety, are working together to look at different, flexible ways of working that will benefit employees and allow us to use our buildings more effectively.

We want to get this right for everyone. To help ensure that,  we have appointed a Project Manager to lead this work.

Shirley Johnstone, currently a contract officer for the council, takes up post on 15 March and brings a wealth of experience in delivering successful change projects. Look out for more updates from Shirley.

COVID response - resilience

Jane Fowler, Head of Customer Support Services
Jane Fowler, Head of Customer Support Services

Living through a pandemic is difficult for us all, from missing other people, missing variety in things to do, or to wondering when we’ll get back to the life we want to have.

There are great examples of employees helping each other cope in different ways:

Being open if we’re feeling down or scunnered and having chats with colleagues about the things we’re struggling with

Noticing little things we might not have noticed before. I am hearing a lot of people for example being encouraged by signs of Spring coming.

Making a point of enjoying and highlighting successes, big or small

Asking for help if we need it, for example through the employee assistance programme

Calling colleagues you used to see at work for a chat or a laugh, just to keep in touch.

The pandemic will end. Until then, it can help to know that we’re all in this together and we can do a lot to help each other.

If you have questions about help available from the council you are welcome to contact the Wellbeing Team at

COVID – Area Recovery

Fergus Murray, Chair of the area’s Recovery Group
Fergus Murray, Chair of the area’s Recovery Group

The pandemic has had a major impact on our way of life and this is likely to continue to some way or another for some time.

Our Recovery Group brings together council services and external partners to tackle issues that are impacting on our communities now and making plans to help us all move on, when restrictions allow.

While there are huge challenges, there are also lots of reasons for optimism.

For example, the successful roll out of the vaccine, finding better ways to work together, taking decisions faster and proving that we can effectively tackle almost any issue that lies before us.  In terms of economic recovery for example, we are attracting millions of pounds of investment to the area; our regeneration work is already paying dividends (as you’ll see later on this Cascade); and we are introducing new ways to get people back to work as soon as possible including where necessary to learn new skills.

Argyll and Bute has always been a great place to be and our recovery will make it even better.

Congratulations Moya and Jonathan!

Argyll and Bute’s Rural Growth Deal secures £70 million of investment in the area’s economy.

It depends on a partnership of public, private and third sector organisations, including for example the Scottish and UK Governments, the Universities of Stirling, and the Highlands and Islands, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Day-to-day, it is Moya Ingram, Strategic Transport and Infrastructure Manager, and Jonathan Welch, Strategic Transportation Policy Officer, managed by Fergus Murray, who work with partners to develop the investment initiatives.

Juggling the priorities of all partners to develop and agree shared projects is no mean feat.

Congratulations to Moya and Jonathan for the great results their hard work is delivering for Argyll and Bute!

You can read more about the rural growth deal on our website:

Moya Ingram
Moya Ingram
Jonathan Welch
Jonathan Welch

Campbeltown wins!

Let’s face it, after the year we have all had, we don’t need much of an excuse to put on our best fancy clothes (remember them?) and attend a virtual awards ceremony. The Economic Development and Infrastructure team did just that last week and waited to hear if Campbeltown had won Scotland’s most improved place in the 2020 SURF Awards.

And we did indeed win! The regeneration of Campbeltown has been a fantastic team effort after almost 15 years of work.

The project was led by James Lafferty with support from Cara Browning and the Transformation Projects and Regeneration Team and colleagues from housing, planning, communications, the web team, legal and finance and building standards.

This is a win for Campbeltown and for Argyll and Bute as we continue to make a difference and help attract people to live and work here. Hopefully there will be a proper celebration once it is safe to do so – drinks on Fergus Murray! (as long as it’s water).

James Lafferty with his daughter Lola and her fancy tiara.

Read more about the project on the website.

Business as usual - thanks to frontline workers

Jim Smith, Head of Roads and Infrastructure Services
Jim Smith, Head of Roads and Infrastructure Services

Teams from Roads and Infrastructure services are front and centre in people’s lives every day, for example our ports and ferry staff  our lighting and road repairs teams, or our school transport staff.

Our hard-working bin workers have been on the front line all the way through lockdowns.

On some routes our workers can walk up to 17 km a day lifting household rubbish and recycling bins.

It’s hardly surprising when you consider that they pick up 2.9 million bins each year across 6,909 km2 of Argyll and Bute – and that includes 11 islands!

During the recent cold weather, our gritter drivers were up at the crack of dawn to make sure those of us that had to make essential journeys could do so safely. In November and December 2020 they gritted the equivalent of 29,336 miles of road with 4463 tonnes of salt.

Thanks to them all.

Love conquers all

Bob Miller, Customer Engagement and Transformation Manager
Bob Miller, Customer Engagement and Transformation Manager

The last year brought challenges for thousands of couples who had to change their wedding plans and, in many cases, postpone their big day.

A number of couples, however, decided that they weren’t going to let a global pandemic get in the way of them tying the knot, and sought the help of our registrars to make their vision a reality.

The old saying ‘love conquers all’ must be true because, despite a national lockdown, 25 couples have already married in Argyll and Bute since the beginning of this year, 12 of which were civil ceremonies.

Our registrars have worked extremely hard to make these marriages go ahead in line with the Scottish Government’s covid guidelines and I’m very proud to have such a committed workforce. We have an unparalleled number of bookings for later in the year and hope that the easing of restrictions will permit a bumper year for marriages….in addition to a lockdown baby boom for birth registrations!

Home learning

Louise Connor, Chief Education Officer
Louise Connor, Chief Education Officer

Covid-19 has been a real roller coaster for our education service.

Teachers and school staff have had to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and consider new and innovative ways to engage children in home learning.

They have had to meet tight deadlines and come up with innovative learning techniques that inspire our young people during these difficult times, all of which they have done with such a positive attitude.

Throughout the whole process they have had our children and young people’s best interests at heart and I’m extremely grateful to have such a wonderful education family in Argyll and Bute.

Lots of staff have also been juggling their own work with their child learning at home over the last few months – not an easy task!

Some children have now gone back to school as part of the Scottish Government’s phased return and, following the First Minister’s announcement on Monday, the next group looks set to return on 15 March.

For anyone whose child is still learning at home, however, our education service has published lots of useful tips on the council website that may help you. 

These can be found using this link:

Performance Excellence

How do you know how well the council is doing? How do we tell people? How do we know what we can do better?

These are some of the questions being asked by a project team tasked with improving our performance management reporting.

Why change?
Our current approach to performance management was introduced over 10 years ago including the use of the ‘Pyramid’ system as a reporting tool. Improving how we report performance is one of the key actions from the Best Value Audit. The council needs a simpler, more effective and easy to use system that makes all our lives easier.

Employees from across council services are involved to help identify an approach that works for us all. This includes reviewing options for replacing Pyramid. We are working to deliver recommendations on a revised approach by autumn this year.

Vernon’s fight for tolerance

Vernon (right) and Tony Halls-Gibbs with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Vernon (right) and Tony Halls-Gibbs with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

February is LGBT+ History month and this year’s theme is about beating intolerance through education.

Vernon Gibbs-Halls, is a Children’s Services Worker with the HSCP (Health and Social Care Partnership).

He and his husband Tony became the first gay couple to marry in South Africa in 2006. This should have been a time of celebration. Instead, they struggled against prejudice within the small rural community where they lived.

Their story of resilience has been captured in a film entitled Tolerance.

They are now settled in Dunoon.

Vernon said: “LGBT+ History Week is a great focus to celebrate how far we’ve come, how policy and legislation has changed to recognise equal rights. We can also reflect on the struggles that people have endured and still endure. Hate crime against gays, lesbians and transgender people is still around.

“But no-one is alone. There are organisations that can support you – particularly young people. Don’t let feelings of worthlessness or depression escalate. There is no challenge you can’t overcome.”

The council’s Employee Assistance Programme provider  Health Assured have an informative webinar available titled LGBT+ History Month/Coming Out. 

Please tell us your news

We’d love to hear and share your stories on surviving lockdown, the great things happening in your service or any other news from around the council.

Please, drop us a line at:

We look forward to hearing from you.