Aberdeen Crematorium

You’ll see from the blog below that I’ve not posted since I shared here the statement that I made to the Council at its meeting on 29th June about the truly awful past practices at Aberdeen Crematorium set out in Dame Elish Angiolini’s report of the National Cremation Investigation published two days earlier. Following a week when the many issues to be faced by the Council in relation to this situation have once again been considered by the elected members, I felt it was appropriate to pause and reflect again on the profound impact the revelations of what transpired in the past at the crematorium have had on the City and the Council.

Through the report I presented to Council last week I wanted to address four main issues – confirmation that we continue to do all we can to work with and support those individuals and families directly affected by the past practices at the crematorium; confirmation that a process is underway to review how operational and strategic responsibility had been managed at the crematorium; confirmation that the practices at the crematorium have been transformed and confirmation that through a combination of rigorous assurance monitoring and management, and of cultural change in how the Council works with its staff and its customers the lessons learned from what happened at the crematorium are embedded across the Council.

Since the end of June I’ve been meeting with individuals and families who continue to feel the impact of how badly let down they were by the Council through their experience of the crematorium, whether as a result of the apparent non-retrieval of the ashes of their child or as a result of the abhorrent practices that emerged through the anonymous whistle-blowing letter received in May 2014 just before Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission reported. I continue to offer these meetings and I’ve committed to the families to do so for as long as any of them wish to meet me. As you can imagine these meetings are deeply affecting and they bring home to me that while as a Council we will do everything possible to ensure that no family in future has the trauma of bereavement amplified by our actions, we must never forget that what was done to the families in the past can never be undone and indeed can never be forgotten. It lives on with them forever.

Many of the recommendations in my report and agreed by the members at the meeting last week are of course concerned with ensuring that we have in place all the necessary mechanisms to ensure that what happened in the past at the crematorium can never be repeated. It’s key in continuing to rebuild public trust and confidence in the crematorium that the implementation of these actions is pursued relentlessly and I’m committed to ensuring that they are. However, no-one who has read my blogs over the two years I’ve been Chief Executive will be surprised in any way to know that for me, crucial though it is to have in place appropriate processes underpinned by robust governance arrangements it is also imperative to work tirelessly on building a culture across the Council that better values every member of every team in order to ensure that those who we serve in whatever way from whatever part of the Council have the very best experience of their interaction with us.