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SLG Messages

SLG Messages

Message from SLG - 18 September 

As we write our message this week, we welcome a new member onto our SLG team. Many of you will already know Lorraine Sanda as our Chief Education Officer and this week she was appointed as Strategic Director for People.

The role was previously held by Fiona McOmish who left in August to begin a new adventure with her family in Italy. Whilst leading the People Portfolio Lorraine will also continue to undertake the role of Chief Education Officer  in addition to being part of  SLG team. Lorraine is looking forward to getting to know and work with people that she has not already had the opportunity to engage with up until now.

This week we have been hearing that the number of Coronavirus cases continues to rise across the country and the new "Rule of 6" came into force on aimed at to preventing the virus from spreading. The new rule means that the size of gatherings has now been reduced to a maximum of 6 people between 2 Households in Scotland – both indoors and outdoors. Children under 12 are not included in the "6" and the new restrictions do not apply to schools or workplaces.

We know that there is a lot of information to take in and it can be confusing trying to work out what you can and cannot do under the new restrictions. If you are unsure, please take time to look at the Scottish Government’s website https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-what-you-can-and-cannot-do/ for all the latest information and guidance.

We appreciate that this will be a concerning time for many of you, particularly those of you who had previously been Shielding. The current advice from the Scottish Government is that there is no need for those who had been Shielding to start this again as a result of these outbreaks. This is because quick actions are being taken to manage the outbreaks, contain the spread of the virus and keep everyone safe. You can read more about this on the "Latest News" section of the Keeping Staff Connected page of the website here.

During this uncertain time, it is more important than ever that you are looking after your physical and mental wellbeing. We would encourage you visit the wellbeing section - https://www.clacks.gov.uk/coronavirus/wellbeing/ -  on the Keeping Staff Connected page which has lots of advice and guidance to help and support you. 

COSLA has also joined forces with Trade Union colleagues to launch a new mental health awareness video. With many people still working from home and away from their colleagues six months into lockdown, the "Don’t Stay on Mute" video aims to reassure people who are suffering from anxiety or uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic that they are not alone and that a variety of support is available.  You can view the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0-DH6nOw5w&feature=youtu.be.

We are also asking all staff to continue to use their annual leave to help balance their wellbeing. We have agreed new guidance with our Union colleagues to ensure staff and managers can discuss how leave will be used for the remainder of the leave year

We are also in the final stages of agreeing our new home working policy which was discussed with Union colleagues and councillors this week. This policy enhances our existing home working policy and builds on the changes to working practices that have come about as a result of COVID-19. It also strengthens our commitment to flexible working.

We would like to thank you for your patience and for your continued hard work during these unsettling times. We would emphasise our message from last week and urge you all to continue to follow the advice and guidance from the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to prevent any further lockdown measures being necessary.

As hard as it may be, it is vital that we all follow the Scottish Government guidance and advice, which is there to keep us all safe. So here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Finally, we would like to wish you all a safe and restful weekend.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 11 September 

Dear Colleagues

In our message last week we talked about the increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Scotland. This number continues to grow and yesterday the Scottish Government announced restrictions which reduce the size of gatherings to a maximum of 6 people in Scotland – both indoors and outdoors.

We know how disappointing and disheartening this news must be. It is yet another reminder of how quickly things can change and how we have to be able to adapt to these changes at short notice.

This week we had our first case of an individual testing positive for Covid-19 at one of our primary schools. We worked with our colleagues at NHS Forth Valley and those who had come into close contact with the individual were quickly identified and contacted by NHS Test and Protect. Letters were also sent out to parents and carers informing them about the situation.  The management of outbreaks is part and parcel of the recovery process, and it is something we expect to be dealing with regularly.

As we move towards Autumn and begin to see the colder weather creep in, we cannot afford to be complacent. We would urge you all to continue to follow the advice and guidance from the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to prevent any further lockdown measures being necessary.

A new NHS Scotland contact tracing app – Protect Scotland - was launched this week which can be downloaded for free onto Smartphones from the Apple and Google Play stores. The app uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, and advises them to self-isolate. Users of the app who test positive will still get a call from a contact tracer to confirm their details and who they have been in close contact with.

There is also a reminder on the "Latest News" section of the staff page of the internet which provides information on what you should do if you have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of Covid-19 or have travelled to a country which is not specifically exempt from quarantine regulations. You can find the information here . Please make sure you take time to read this.

Despite all this, we continue to work towards our recovery and at a full council meeting yesterday, plans setting out how staff and services will transition and adapt to post-Covid life were agreed. These plans are already starting to take shape with a project to deliver a Community Hub at the Bowmar Centre focussing on community empowerment, learning, wellbeing and social enterprises receiving £550,000 funding from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

The Be the Future update report explained how the Council’s previously agreed priorities, set out in an earlier report, will be prioritised in the face of unprecedented social and economic challenges. We will continue to build on the momentum gained during recent months to work with our national and local partners to explore the potential opportunities for closer partnership working in the future.

A programme of investment to update our IT system and invest in new IT equipment was also agreed at the meeting. It means that we will now be able to move forward with our plan to implement Microsoft 365 which will support our wider digital transformation agenda.

One of the benefits of Microsoft 365 is that applications will be able to be accessed from any device and from any location with an internet connection. This enables remote, home and flexible working.

You can read more about the Be the Future and Digital Transformation pages  on the Latest News section of the Keeping Staff Connected page here.

Council was also given an update on the development of Scotland’s International Environment Centre (SIEC) under the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal

Due to Covid-19, original plans have had to be revised. We are working collaboratively with Stirling University to develop an innovation Hub based in Alloa with a focus on early activity, including research and innovation, business support, jobs and skills in support of economic recovery and climate change objectives.

The first phase of developing SIEC took place this week with the launch of the Environmental Resilience Array (ERA), a state-of-the-art environmental monitoring system – the first of its kind – which will enable businesses and organisations to make decisions based on real-time data. The multi-million-pound project will be a "living laboratory" capturing, processing and sharing data from across Forth Valley using EE's 5G network. It will use sensors, satellite data and artificial intelligence to provide vital information on water quality and other factors to inform decisions that could provide major economic and sustainability benefits to the area.  

As we head towards the weekend, we understand that this must be an unsettling time for you as we face the prospect of not being able to meet up with friends and family in the same way that we have been able to over the recent weeks. We know that you must be feeling weary of yet more restrictions being imposed. However it’s more vital than ever that we follow the Scottish Government guidance and advice, which is there to keep us all safe. So here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Finally, we would like to wish you all a restful weekend.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart and Pete

Message from SLG - 3 September 

Dear Colleagues

This week we heard that restrictions on visiting other households are being reintroduced in parts of Glasgow and the West of Scotland as a result of an increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19. NHS Forth Valley also announced an increase in the number of positive cases following a cluster in the Dunblane, Bridge of Allan and Stirling areas.

These developments highlight that there is some way to go on seeing our way through this pandemic, and that we can expect ongoing disruption to our personal and working lives for some time to come.   

We appreciate that it is not easy and that the ongoing uncertainty can be a worrying and unsettling time for many of us but we would like to reassure you that the health and wellbeing of our staff is our main priority.

As the recovery phase continues,  some more of our services have welcomed staff back into the workplace on a rota basis. Our Emergency Planning and Health and Safety teams continue to work  with senior managers and trades Union colleagues on Covid security and building capacity to ensure that our workplaces are safe, and can operate within permitted limits for safe social distancing.

Our primary message continues to be however that we are encouraging staff to work from home where possible in discussion with their line managers. To support this, we are working with our Union colleagues on a revised homeworking policy which we will be publishing in the coming weeks.

In our message last week, we said that at times the past weeks and months have felt, and still do, relentless. We know that many of you are tired and feeling weary after an unprecedented 6 months. We want you to know that there is significant activity going on to prioritise activity on both operational recovery and transformation. We are working with councillors and our the Be the Future Project Management Office (PMO) to develop refreshed priorities that will enable a sustainable recovery whilst looking to put  us on a strong footing for the future.

Staff efforts have been recognised by the Council Leader, Cllr Ellen Forson, and many elected members have asked us to pass on their continued appreciation and thanks for all that you are doing and continue to do.

Our communications team have produced a special Coronavirus edition of our staff magazine, Connected, which is out today (Thursday). It provides a snapshot of the work that has been going on throughout the pandemic and it is incredible to see just how much we have achieved and how far we have come. We would urge you to take time to read through Connected.

Finally the recent outbreaks and clusters in different parts of the country, shows why we must continue to be vigilant. National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said recently that if your life feels normal, then you've misunderstood.

The only way we can stop this virus from taking hold again is to continue to follow the guidelines. We appreciate how difficult this can be as we all try to keep up with the sheer volume of information that can change at short notice. 

But as we head into the autumn and then winter months, it's more vital than ever that we follow the Scottish Government guidance and advice, which is there to keep us all safe. So here's a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

 Face Coverings

Avoid Crowded Places

Clean your Hands Regularly

Two Metre Distance

Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Finally, we would like to wish you all a restful weekend.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart and Pete

Message from SLG - 27 August 

We are fast approaching the end of summer and if anything has been a stark reminder of this, it has been the recent bout of stormy weather.

Since the start of August, our staff  have had to contend with three separate storm related incidents which resulted in severe flooding, roads closures and earlier in the month an evacuation of houses. This was all while working towards our recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. It has, at times, felt relentless. 

Our roads staff with support from a range of council services including emergency resilience, flood management and housing (in the case of the properties which had to be evacuated) have done a fantastic job throughout. Their hard work and efforts have ensured that schools did not have to be closed and the most vulnerable people in our community were protected.

As we move forward, it seems that advice is changing at a fast pace and as a council we need to be prepared to act quickly. This is something our Education team have experienced as they continue their efforts with the return of pupils to schools. Our Health and Safety team are supporting them by arranging tests to be carried out for pupils or staff who may be displaying symptoms of Coronavirus. None of the pupils or staff from any of our schools who have been tested have received a positive result and they have been able to go back to school after receiving their negative result. As you can imagine, this is proving to be a huge task and has involved phoning each individual household.

The health and safety of both our staff and our pupils is our main priority. We continue to ensure that we follow the latest Coronavirus safety guidance and ensure that the correct cleaning guidelines are followed in all our education establishments. 

This week the First Minister announced further protection measures when she said that face coverings will be mandatory for pupils in secondary schools when they are in corridors or communal areas walking between classes. They will not have to be worn in classrooms. The change comes in to effect on Monday 31 August.

Our ongoing recovery efforts continue with more of the services we operate being allowed to open up including leisure services. While this is exciting news, particularly for the staff who work for these services, we are doing this is a measured way. We have set up recovery groups to oversee this work and ensure that it is being done in a way that is safe for both our staff and members of the public.    

We appreciate that we have been working at an unprecedented pace for many months and at times this been challenging and difficult. Services had to be closed, plans put in place and then more plans for re-opening the services in a safe and controlled way. For many of us, this has meant doing this while working in a different way than what we are normally used to. It's therefore more important than ever that we all look after our physical and mental wellbeing. The Keeping Staff Connected Page on our main internet site    https://www.clacks.gov.uk/coronavirus/wellbeing/ has a specific page with advice and guidance on how you can look after your wellbeing. We would also encourage colleagues to look out for each other. A simple act of kindness can go a long way to supporting someone who may be struggling.

Finally, as we said last week, the First Minister’s message is clear - we must still remain vigilant about how we act, so that we reduce the chances for the virus to spread in our community. So please continue to follow the guidance so that we can protect ourselves, our families and our communities and prevent any further lockdown measures from having to be imposed.

We hope you enjoy your weekend and again, here is a reminder of FACTS that we should follow for a safer Scotland:

  • Face Coverings
  • Avoid Crowded Places
  • Clean your Hands Regularly
  • Two Metre Distance
  • Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart and Pete

Message from SLG - 20 August 

Dear Colleagues

The extension of lockdown restrictions this week in Aberdeen brings home that Covid-19 has not gone away and is very much still present in our communities. These local clusters are something which could occur at any time, and we continue to work with our partners to plan for the possibility of these happening locally. This week we held an emergency planning table top exercise based on this scenario to test our plans and readiness for just such an eventuality.

Pupils and staff have been back in the classroom for over a week now, and it’s been fantastic to see our school communities back together. We’re proud of the way all our school staff and particularly our pupils have embraced all the necessary changes, as we adapt to new ways of working and learning.

It’s also been very interesting to see so many of our young people using Clackmannanshire’s fantastic environment as a learning resource – a positive change that we hope will continue long after the pandemic is behind us.

As lockdown continues to ease, you may have been out and about enjoying coffee with friends or a meal with family. You may have taken advantage of the Government’s ‘eat out to help out’ discount scheme which many local businesses are using to aid their recovery.

Please note that this week regulations changed, making it mandatory for all hospitality venues to collect customer information in support of Test and Protect. The new regulations apply to restaurants, cafes, pubs and hotels in which food or drink are sold for consumption on the premises.

The new regulations will help us break chains of transmission while continuing to allow us to socialise and support our local businesses.

You are probably aware that all Council workplaces have now been risk assessed based on national guidelines and plans have been put in place to keep our buildings and working environments ‘Covid Secure’. We want to remind you all that you must follow the measures put in place for your workplace. Failure to follow guidance such as the minimum distancing rules, wearing the appropriate PPE or following the correct cleaning processes could put colleagues and service users at risk of infection and as such may constitute a breach of our health and safety policies and procedures.

Any breach of the Covid-19 measures must be recorded and documented using the Health and Safety incident and near miss form.  These incidents will be reviewed by the Health and Safety team and will allow us to provide further guidance to those involved in any incidents, help us to monitor how effective our measures are and to improve them where necessary.

On Friday we said farewell to Fiona McOmish, Strategic Director of Services to People, who joined us on secondment from the Fire Service in early 2019. During Fiona's 18 months with the Council she has taken forward some key work including: the development of our STRIVE pilot (safeguarding through rapid intervention); the agreement of the Working Together and Facilities Time agreements with trade unions colleagues, and the delivery of the Learning Estate Strategy. Fiona is embarking on quite an adventure as she leaves us; many of you may know that Fiona has taken a career break to support her husband whilst he is working in Italy for the next 12 months. We will miss Fiona's calm and cheerful commitment but wish her and her family a safe and happy time In Italy.

The First Minister continues to present us with a clear message - it’s important that we all remain vigilant about how we act, so that we reduce the chances for the virus to spread in our community. We’ve made a lot of progress so far and the last thing we want is to see more restrictions reintroduced. Please continue to follow the guidance and act with caution so that we can protect ourselves, our families and our communities.

We hope you enjoy your weekend, and here is a reminder of FACTS that we should follow for a safer Scotland:

  • Face Coverings
  • Avoid Crowded Places
  • Clean your Hands Regularly
  • Two Metre Distance
  • Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart and Pete

Message from SLG - 13 August 

Dear Colleagues

If ever we needed a reminder about the great resilience our staff show under tremendous pressure, the last two weeks have more  than shown this.

In our message last week, we talked about the multi agency major incident which was declared in a number of areas following heavy and persistent rain. This resulted in a number of people having to be evacuated from their homes and our staff were on hand throughout offering help and support to residents.

No sooner had we got through this when our staff found themselves facing another potential emergency situation this week following severe thunder and lightning storms and heavy rain throughout Tuesday night. Thankfully this situation did not result in a major emergency being declared but our Incident officers and Resilience Officer were on hand from the early hours of Wednesday morning along with our Roads teams who were out clearing debris from the roads to ensure where possible they could remain open.

They were very much aware that pupils were due to start returning to classrooms across Clackmannanshire for the first time since March and their priority was to ensure that this would not be affected while making sure that the roads were safe for members of the public. Another sterling effort from all involved and we would like to thank them for all their hard work.

The re-opening of schools this week has been a huge undertaking and has involved a Herculean effort from not only Education Services but a range of support services across the council to ensure that our young people and staff feel safe and confident returning to school. Reports from the first couple of days show that it has gone very well with both pupils and staff glad to be back in classrooms. It has been humbling to see the lengths our staff have gone to in order to get our schools open safely and ensure our young people can continue their education.

In the midst of getting ready for the schools re-opening, the SQA exam results were announced which not only affected our young people and their parents or carers but also our secondary education staff.  We saw an overall improvement in the pass rate in both National 5 and Higher levels and all three secondary schools reported an improvement. However there was further change this week when Education Secretary John Swinney announced that the Scottish Government and SQA had got it wrong and apologised to pupils and their parents and carers. All pupils who had their marks downgraded will now have them reinstated at their original estimate. It has not been an easy time and its fair to say that it has been an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved!

Finally it may look and feel a though life has returned to normal as we got about our day to day business but the message from the First Minister is clear – we still have quite a long way to go. It’s important that we all remain vigilant about how we act so that we reduce the chances for the virus to spread in our community. We’ve made a lot of progress so far and the last thing we want is to see more restrictions having to be reintroduced. Please continue to follow the FACTS guidance for a safer Scotland and act with caution so that we can protect ourselves, our families and our communities: 

Face Coverings

Avoid Crowded Places

Clean your Hands Regularly

Two Metre Distance

Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 6 August

Dear Colleagues

This week brought a stark reminder that as a Council, we have to deal with whatever emergencies come our way, even while we continue to operate during this pandemic.

On Tuesday evening, the heavy and persistent rain resulted in flooding in a number of areas, in particular in Tillicoultry. A multi agency response was required, and staff were on scene and also providing support from home for many hours, working alongside the emergency services and volunteers well into the late evening. As a precaution, 19 households were offered evacuation and taken to the Ben Cleuch Centre. 

Staff continued to be on site dealing with the clear up during Wednesday and beyond, helping residents to access their properties and assess the damage.  This was a tremendous response from staff throughout the Council, who came together late at night to provide whatever assistance was required to help keep people safe.  As a senior management team, we want to let everyone involved know how much your dedication and willingness to provide assistance is truly appreciated, both by us and our communities.

The reintroduction of some lockdown restrictions this week in Aberdeen to deal with a local outbreak of cases brings home that Covid-19 has not gone away and is still lurking in our communities.  These local clusters are something which could occur at any time, and we continue to work with our partners to plan for the possibility of these happening locally.

The clear message coming from the First Minister is that we have not returned to life as normal, and that we must be vigilant about how we act, so that we reduce the chances for this horrible virus to spread in our community.  We’ve made so much progress, and none of us wants to return to the restrictive way of life that we experienced in earlier months, so please, please,  continue to follow the guidance and act with caution so that we can protect ourselves, our families and our communities.

The focus nationally is on ensuring that the virus remains supressed and that our young people can return to school next week.  The great effort underway to welcome our pupils back to their schools has continued, with information shared with parents from the Education service and from individual schools.  We know it will be an unfamiliar experience for everyone to return to the classroom after such a long gap, however we’re confident that the hard work of our colleagues will mean that pupils and staff can settle in and enjoy learning together in person again.

We also celebrated the achievements of our young people this week, with the issuing of SQA results.  While it’s true that this has been a results day like no other, it’s important that we take time to mark the culmination of many years of work by pupils, supporting by their teachers and families. 

In our schools, overall there is improvement in the pass rate in both National 5 and Higher level with all three secondary schools reporting improvement. Our poverty related attainment gap also narrowed this year which means young people from our most disadvantaged areas gained more qualifications in than in previous years. This was the same for our Looked After Children who also gained more qualifications this year. There is also improvement in English at both National 5 and Higher and Maths at National 5.

We hope you enjoy your weekend, and here is a reminder of FACTS that we should follow for a safer Scotland:

  • Face Coverings
  • Avoid Crowded Places
  • Clean your Hands Regularly
  • Two Metre Distance
  • Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 30 July 

Dear Colleagues

This week has brought the very welcome confirmation from the Scottish Government that schools will re-open full time from August. Education staff, with the help of colleagues across the Council, have been working extremely hard to ensure our plans are in place for re-opening.  These can now be finalised, and headteachers will be contacting parents and carers directly with further information on the practical arrangements.

There’s still a lot of work ahead of us as our young people return to the classroom from 12 August, and we would like to thank all of you who have done so much to allow this important step forward to take place.

Next Tuesday is results day for SQA qualifications, when many of our young people (and their parents!) will be nervously awaiting news.  There’s no doubt this is a results day like no other, but it’s also a chance to mark the many years of hard work that have led up to this day. There is plenty of advice and support available for pupils and their families, and we should also remember that there is #NoWrongPath for our young people in the years ahead.

The First Minister has now confirmed that Shielding will be paused from 1 August, and this is a very welcome change for all those affected.  We also know that it will be an anxious time for many, and we want you to know there are links to useful NHS help and advice available on our staff web pages. We also have our 24 hour employee counselling service as well as Occupational Health. If you have been Shielding, your manager will be in touch with you about how we can, with the assistance of our health and safety team, support you wherever possible back to work. 

We wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of taking a break and recharging the batteries. Whilst many of us will not want to seek overseas sun opting instead to stay at home and take a staycation, we hope that whatever your plans are they are relaxing and enjoyable.

Of course the reason we can reopen our schools and pause Shielding is the efforts we have all been making to supress the virus by following the advice to keep us all safe.  While some normality has returned to our lives, and we have been able to get out more and enjoy some very welcome experiences, we need to remember that this all depends on us following the current advice.  Along with this, a reminder of FACTS that we should follow for a safer Scotland:

  • Face Coverings
  • Avoid Crowded Places
  • Clean your Hands Regularly
  • Two Metre Distance
  • Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

We hope that you enjoy your weekend and any annual leave you are taking.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 23 July 

Dear Colleagues

Every week we continue to move forward through our journey of recovery in line with Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland advice and guidance and we are gradually  taking important steps towards a ‘new normal’.

After months of lockdown and restrictions we know how important this is to you. The Coronavirus outbreak has not only had a major impact on our personal lives but also on our working lives.

The Council, along with many other organisations and businesses, had to quickly adapt to new ways of working to ensure we were able to provide critical services to our communities and our most vulnerable citizens.  A considerable priority has also been placed on expanding our capacity to support remote working. Over the last few months, our IT team has been working hard to ensure that our staff are able to work remotely and access the network from home. We now have 500 employees working remotely delivering Council Services.  

Like all other Council services, the IT team has had to work at pace to respond to new priorities as a result of the COVID response and recovery.  The IT helpdesk has been adapted to enable remote IT support to be provided as more staff than ever are now working remotely.

Our remote working pages in the staff section on the Council’s website have also been updated and now provide information on requesting IT kit, setting up equipment at home and troubleshooting as well as working safely in line with cyber security best practice and staying connected with colleagues and customers.  Itrent People Manager has also been implemented to ensure that managers have been able to access the system remotely. 

New ways of working has also meant that we have had to quickly develop new online and digital services for our customers.  Video Conferencing Tools have been deployed to enable staff to stay connected, collaborate and meet and provide services and have been widely used.  These tools have also been used for Council and Committee meetings, partnership meetings, training events and conferences.  A range of new online services has been developed for customers including applying for grants and booking appointments at Forthbank Recycling Centre.  A new case management tool called Helping Hands has been implemented to assist with our shielding and community aid efforts. 

We know that you will want to know what this will mean for your working pattern going forward. As a Council we have always been committed to supporting flexible working arrangements which meet the needs and objectives of both the Council and our staff. Our Worklife Balance and Flexible Working Policy shows our commitment to this, but we want to go further.

Over the last few weeks union and management colleagues who sit on our policy group have been considering a separate and new homeworking policy which aims to  strengthen worklife balance and acknowledge that our traditional ways of working have been changed. Work is ongoing to develop this new policy and once agreed and approved by Council we look forward to engaging with you about implementation.

In the meantime we continue to open up more services. Our Leisure Services team have been busy getting ready to reopen outdoor sports facilities for Under 18s at Lornshill Academy on Monday with facilities at Alva Academy opening the week after.

The team have also been involved in opening the Town Hall for The Gate’s uniform bank which has been running successfully this week with support from our staff who have volunteered to help distribute uniforms. Yet another example of the dedication and commitment we have seen from staff throughout the last few weeks and months. Thank you.

Finally, we would remind you to continue to keep in touch with your manager to ensure that you are up to date with the latest working arrangements.

We would like to wish you and your families a restful and peaceful weekend.  

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 17 July 

Dear Colleagues

It's been another very busy week. On Wednesday we saw the biggest step forward in the easing of lockdown restrictions with the reopening of pubs, cinemas, restaurants, hairdressers and libraries. This is yet another sign that we are making progress in controlling the spread of Coronavirus.

As a Council, our Clackmannanshire Works and Finance teams have been working hard throughout lockdown to support local businesses and those who are self employed by delivering Business Support Grants. Some staff have been seconded from their day jobs to help administer the funds. We are also working collaboratively with local partners such as Ceteris and Business Gateway to set up the Clackmannanshire Business Support Partnership which will allow us to support businesses throughout the recovery period.

Our Environmental Services team have also been proactively going out to help businesses navigate their way through the COVID-19 Scottish Government regulations, giving advice and making sure they are following correct guidance to allow them to re-open safely.   

It's been a busy time for our Libraries and support staff who have been preparing to get our library and payment services up and running safely again. All this hard work paid off on Wedensday when both the Speirs and Ben Cleuch Centres reopened to our residents for the first time since lockdown began.

Although we are having to operate a restricted service, the "Click and Collect" system which is now in place for borrowing library items has been well received and our staff have already had really positive feedback from our residents. It's heartening to hear this.

Meanwhile our Health & Safety team are working on individual risk assessments for staff returning to work and with support staff, have been putting safety measures in place into council buildings and schools to ensure they are COVID secure. 

We see evidence on a daily basis of how hard our staff have been working over the last few weeks and months. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recognised this earlier this week when she paid tribute to staff in local authorities across the country who have continued to deliver essential services under very difficult conditions to the most vulnerable members of the community. Like the First Minister, we appreciate the efforts of all our staff - you have certainly risen to the challenge!

However it's more important than ever that you make sure you are looking after your physical as well as mental health. We would encourage you to visit the Wellbeing section on the staff page of our website. You will find advice and guidance on the best way to look after yourself and your family as well as finding links and contact details for support organisations.

From a welfare point of view, we are encouraging staff to take annual leave that has been booked. Now that travel restrictions have been eased slightly, it is likely that you may be able to get away for a few days. However if you are planning to travel abroad, please make sure you have read our guidance on the Annual Leave FAQ section on the staff pages of the website regarding self-isolation from countries which are on the exempt list. Please also ensure that your manager is aware of your travel plans.

As we said last week, there is still much work ahead and we hope that you manage to take the time to relax and recharge.

Finally, as we approach another weekend, we would like to wish you all a happy, safe  and restful time.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 10 July 

Dear Colleagues

Now that summer is upon us we have no doubt that many of you will be looking at trying to get away for a break or maybe still hoping to go on holidays that were booked pre COVID-19.

The First Minister’s statement on Wednesday which saw a further easing of travel restrictions is certainly welcome news but we appreciate that for many of you there is still uncertainty. You may be considering whether to cancel annual leave in the face of such uncertainty but we would urge those of you who have time booked off to try and take this. The last few months have been extremely difficult and challenging and we appreciate how hard staff have been working to ensure we keep our essential services running. From a welfare point of view, it is important that you take time to rest and recharge, especially as we head into our recovery phase. 

In a further briefing yesterday, the First Minister said the virus had been suppressed to a "low level" which means that we have moved into "Phase 3" of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

This means that from today we will be able to visit other households indoors in limited groups and stay overnight as long as physical distancing is observed. Extended groups of up to 15 people from 5 different households will also be able to meet up outside.

Shopping centres will be able to reopen from Monday 13 July, when dentists and optometrists will be allowed to begin scaling up their work again.

The news that many people have been waiting for though is the opening of hairdressers and barbers from Wednesday 15 July, with enhanced hygiene measures in place. Indoor areas of bars and restaurants can reopen the same day along with libraries, museums and cinemas.

Our Library Service staff have been busy preparing for the re-opening of the Speirs Centre in Alloa and the Ben Cleuch Centre in Tillicoultry on Wednesday 15th July. We recognise that for some of our staff, this is a big step forward in regaining some sort of normality in their working life after libraries were closed in March.

Over the coming weeks as more restrictions are eased, this will mean that more and more of our services will resume. However we know that there is a lot of work ahead as we navigate our road to recovery and transformation.

The signs are positive but it's also important to remember the First Minister's cautious message that it is still "essential that we all take the utmost care and strictly follow all public health advice". To maintain safety as much as possible, face masks are mandatory in shops and indoor spaces from today.

As we said in last week’s SLG message, we are still encouraging staff who are able to work from home to continue to do so and only come in to their place of work if necessary depending on the needs of the business. Please ensure that you speak to your line manager in advance of making arrangements to come into the building and also if you have any concerns.

As ever, with so much information to take on board, we would encourage you to visit the Scottish Government website for a full list of what restrictions remain in place and what restrictions have been lifted.

Finally, as we approach another weekend, we would like to wish you all a happy, safe  and restful time.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 3 July 

Dear Colleagues

This week we had further news from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as we move into the next phase of the easing of restrictions.

She announced that the 2m social distancing rule, while still remaining, will be reduced to 1m for some businesses and where it can be done safely. We will continue to adhere to the 2m distancing in our council buildings as your safety is our main priority.

The Health and Safety Team and support staff have been carrying out audits on all council buildings to ensure that they are Coronavirus safe not only for staff but also for members of the public for those buildings that will be open to the public.

While we are still encouraging staff who are working from home to continue to do so, we are aware that more members of staff are returning to their workplace on a rota basis dependent on the needs of the business. As a result of this, we’re looking at the capacity in Kilncraigs. Each floor will now have a capacity limit based on the number of people that can safely be accommodated. This could mean that you may not be able to work at your normal workspace. We understand that this is not ideal and you may have concerns but these measures are being put in place to keep everyone safe. Please ensure that you speak to your line manager in advance of making arrangements to come into the building and also if you have any concerns.

We would like to remind you that if you are showing any symptoms, you should not attend your place of work. You should inform your manager and go on to NHS Inform to book a test. If you develop symptoms while at your workplace, you should inform your manager and leave the building immediately and then arrange for a test to be carried out. We would like you to keep your manager informed about the results of the test.

We hope that the measures we have outlined above will reassure you that we are doing all we can to keep you safe. 

Shops with street access opened their doors to the public on Monday and we are carrying out a programme of work throughout Clackmannanshire to provide safe spaces for our residents to access local areas and to allow businesses to re-open safely. To help us fund this work, we were awarded £550,000 from Transport Scotland/Sustrans from their Spaces for People and Places for Everyone programmes. 

As part of this work, our roads and support teams have been busy putting in place a number of measures. In Alloa Town Centre, our staff have been working with Alloa First to put signs and banners in place to remind people to follow physical distancing guidelines to help protect against Coronavirus. In addition, East Vennel and Candleriggs have also been closed to traffic to provide a safe space for people to walk and there is also a partial closure of Candleriggs car park except for use by deliveries and blue badge holders. 

To allow for the potential of outdoor trading, High Street and Mill Street are closed for vehicles but with access for deliveries, adapted disabled vehicles and service and emergency vehicles.

Physical distancing signs have also been put up throughout Clackmannanshire villages to help protect our communities against Coronavirus. Signs reminding people to respect other users will also be erected on our popular core path and cycle network.

We are also doing all we can to support local businesses as they begin to reopen after what has been a really difficult and challenging time. Our Environmental Service has been in contact with businesses this week to gauge whether they would benefit from using outdoor spaces which would allow them to increase their capacity and benefit their business. Our Environmental Health colleagues have further increased the level of advice and guidance being offered to businesses to enable them to operate safely and within legislative requirements.

Looking forward, our library services staff have also been busy preparing for the re-opening of the Ben Cleuch and Speirs Centre on July 15th. Our registrars are also now able to carry out birth registrations face to face and are taking queries about outdoor weddings. So far our registrars will be taking part in 3 outdoor weddings over the coming weeks. We’re sure they will rise to the challenge of the Scottish weather!

As more restrictions are eased with beer gardens and pubs opening from Monday and the five mile travel restriction being lifted, we would still urge you to be cautious when you are out and about.

We appreciate that there is a lot of information to take on board but you can find a full list of what restrictions remain in place and what restrictions have been lifted on the Scottish Government website.  

Finally, as we approach another weekend, we would like to wish you all a happy and restful time.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 26 June 

Dear Colleagues

This week has been another very busy week.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced on Tuesday that if Coronavirus continues to be suppressed and we don't see any further outbreaks, schools will reopen full-time in August with no physical distancing between pupils. This was unexpected but welcome news and our Education and Support teams have risen to the challenge of looking again at plans to allow this to happen in a way that is safe for not only children and young adults but also staff. They also have contingency plans in place if Government advice changes and schools are not able to go back full-time.

As schools finish up for the summer holidays today they have also been busy communicating with parents and carers and ensuring they are kept up to date with the latest information. It’s been a huge challenge!  

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also set out dates for further relaxing of lockdown measures including lifting the five-mile travel limit from 3 July; allowing people to meet other households indoors from 10 July; and reopening pubs, restaurants, holiday accommodation, hairdressers and barbers from 15 July.

Next week stores of all sizes will reopen if they have outdoor entrances and exits along with outdoor markets, outdoor sports courts, playgrounds, zoos and garden attractions.

This is welcome news and shows we are on the road to recovery. However we all still need to remember that we need to take these steps cautiously. Not gathering in groups of more than two households, wearing face masks on public transport and in shops will all help to ensure we continue to suppress the virus and will ensure that lockdown measures don’t have to be reintroduced.  

Our priority is to keep you safe and we will be managing this very carefully. To avoid local outbreaks it is essential that you still continue to work from home if you can. If you have to come in to your place of work for business needs, it’s really important that you follow the signs and one way systems in place as well as continuing to maintain good hand hygiene. 

We took another step forward as a Council this week when we held our first successful virtual full Council meeting. This was attended by 15 councillors, 13 officers and a member of the press!

At the meeting Nikki presented her paper "Respond, Recover and Renew" which outlines how we move forward as a council in difficult and challenging circumstances.

When developing our "Be the Future" transformation plan, significant effort was invested in ensuring that it provided an integrated and flexible platform from which to build sustainable public service delivery. Whilst the scale of that challenge has increased over the last three months, our emergency response has also provided a significant opportunity to introduce much of the activity required to take forward key elements of the plan much quicker than we had planned.

As we move into the recovery phase of activity, the aim is for this to be fully integrated within our Be the Future Programme and not seen as a separate activity.

The three key elements in renewing the Council’s Be the Future Plan is to revisit the three main workstreams:

  • Sustainable Inclusive Growth
  • Empowering Families and Communities
  • Health and Wellbeing.

You can read the full paper on our website.

Finally, as information and guidance continues to change at a fast pace, we recognise you are working harder than ever to keep up with this. We’ve said it before but we would like to thank you again for all that you are doing to keep our ship steady in extremely choppy waters!

For those of you who are parents or carers, we hope you take some time this weekend to relax and enjoy the start of the summer holidays with your families.

We would like to wish you all a happy and restful weekend.  

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

 
 
 
Message from SLG - 18 June 

Dear Colleagues

Today we had more welcome news from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she announced a further lifting of restrictions and a staged approach to Phase 2.

It's particularly good news for those colleagues who have been Shielding. We appreciate how difficult this has been for you but from today, you will be able to go outside for exercise and take part in non contact sports such as fishing, golf or hiking. More importantly you will be able to meet up with family or friends from one other household as long as it is outdoors and in a group of no more than 8.   

For those of you who live on your own or only with children, the news that you will be able to form an "extended support group" with one other household from tomorrow will hopefully make life that little bit easier. We are also sure that now we can meet with more than one household outdoors, will also be welcome.

From 29 June playgrounds, outdoor markets and street access shops will also be able to open. It's all a positive step forward and is the result of the continued drop in new cases of Coronavirus in Scotland. While this is good news and we continue our road to recovery as a council, we have no doubt about the longer term impacts that the pandemic will leave both financially and emotionally on many people.

This week our Emergency Decision Making Forum (EDMF) agreed to extend its free school meal provision during the summer holidays to ensure that vulnerable children do not go hungry. In addition, the EDMF also agreed to provide 600 "grab food bags" a day to local communities. Now more than ever, its important that we support the most vulnerable members of our community and for those staff who will be involved in the delivery of the grab bags and school lunch payments, you have a vital role to play.

We understand that for many of you, balancing work with childcare continues to be a challenge. You will be keen to know what the plans are for children returning to school in August so that you can plan your work around this.

Our Education Service along with support services from across the Council have been working hard preparing for the return of schools after the summer holidays. Each and every school building has had to be risk assessed to ensure its safe for both pupils and staff to return and meets the Scottish Government guidance on social distancing. This has been a huge piece of work  and has been made ever more difficult by the fast pace at which the advice and guidance changes.

Thank you to staff who have been working hard and putting in long hours to ensure that children and young adults in Clackmannanshire continue to progress with their education despite the difficult circumstances. We know it has been frustrating at times but you are doing a fantastic job. For our staff members who are parents or carers of school age children, we know you are keen to find out what the plans are for the schools re-opening in August. It has probably felt like a long road but you have been doing an amazing job supporting your children while they engage with home learning and while juggling your own jobs! We hope to be in a position to share our plans in a bit more detail soon.

Of course, childcare is not the only concern you may have. As we see an easing of restrictions and more businesses begin to open up, we’re aware that many of you who have been working in a different way to what you are normally used to will be anxious to know what this means for you.

We have reduced capacity in our buildings due to the Scottish Government social distancing guidelines so are asking staff who are currently working from home to remain doing this for the time being. It is important though that you keep in regular touch with your manager during this time.

Our HR Team have been working collaboratively with our Trade Unions throughout the pandemic and have engaged on a number of key areas. One significant piece of engagement which will take place shortly is to develop and enhance our homeworking procedures. You may recall that we recently agreed our new Work life Balance Policy which aims to support our staff balance both their working and home commitments. As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic however we are want to review our working practices and explore how we adapt these to fit what will likely be a new way of working going forward.

We are looking at the homeworking element of our work life balance policy and want to separate it out so we have a stand alone distinct policy which will support you and the Council’s transformation in terms of service delivery.

As we develop this new policy we are asking our managers to ensure they are following the principles outlined in our existing policy. This means:

  • Ensuring staff are set up correctly to work at home.
  • That they are engaging with  staff, meaningfully and regularly, focusing  on the wellbeing of teams, offering support, setting expectations but, in the current climate, taking account of any childcare/caring responsibilities etc.

Finally, with the prospect of now being able to meet up with more friends and family outdoors we would like to wish you all a safe and happy weekend.  

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete

Message from SLG - 11 June

Dear Colleagues

This week it’s been heartening to hear that the number of new Coronavirus cases in Scotland appears to be decreasing and the all important "R" number appears to be dropping below 1.  

If the figures continue to drop, it means that the Scottish Government will be able to ease restrictions more. We are all enjoying meeting up with family or friends from another household outdoors and I am sure we are looking forward to the day when we can meet with more people.

It feels like we have all been on a very long journey and we have had to change and reshape the services we deliver while still maintaining the most vital services to the most vulnerable members of the community.

It's been difficult. We understand that it has been exhausting at times as many of you are juggling families and caring responsibilities on top of your daily jobs. This has been recognised by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who thanked all frontline staff from the three emergency services and Local Authorities describing their work as "exemplary". The SLG Team would like to echo Ms Sturgeon's sentiments and thank you all for your continued hard work which has enabled us to carry on providing vital services.

All staff are playing a vital role in combating the coronavirus, whether working from home if possible, coming in to work and complying with hygiene and social distancing requirements where it is not possible to work at home, or by sticking with SG advice and staying at home until such times as we are able to get you back to work safely. 

Our recovery journey is picking up at pace. Our Education Service continue to be busy with all schools requiring to produce an individual School Recovery Plan by the end of this week which will include curriculum planning for next term with the restrictions of physical distancing. We issued a press release this week to local media giving more details about the Service’s phasing plan for the re-opening of schools and will be communicating out to parents and staff with more details about how this will look before the summer term ends.

Arrangements for a Summer Hub to support children of key workers and vulnerable children are now in place and the Hub will operate over a four week period in July.

All three secondary schools have also successfully submitted all SQA Estimations and pupils are expected to receive their results in the first week in August.

The First Minister announced on 8th June that shielding of those who are most at risk if they become infected with Covid-19 should continue until 31 July. We continue to support those who are shielding as well as vulnerable members of the community. Our Helping Hands Team has been doing fantastic work contacting those on the shielding list. To date they have managed to contact 1633 people by phone – more than 80% of the people on the Shielding list. It’s been a huge task so thanks to the staff for their hard work.

The current coronavirus crisis has resulted in a significant transformational journey for us. One of the biggest transformations has been digitally and we continue to move forward on that journey. More people are now working from home and using digital conferencing tools to communicate and keep in touch with team members who are working remotely. IT have been working hard to roll out Microsoft Teams and install Avaya softphone on laptops which will enable staff to make or receive calls through their laptop using their desk phone extension. We are currently reviewing our homeworking policy to support this work.

In a first for the Council, we held our Licensing Board virtually on 11 June. Later this month, on 25 June, we will be holding our first digital full council meeting. Not something we thought we would be saying at the start of the year! Going forward our digital services will become more important as we offer more and more services online. 

As lockdown eases and we se