Credit Rating

On Monday this week the Council made a very significant announcement which I’m keen to highlight to you.

Aberdeen City Council has become the first local authority in Scotland to be assigned an issuer credit rating, a step which will allow us to consider innovative funding mechanisms, including the potential to raise funds on the debt capital markets.

Whilst more information on our plans will be shared soon, Monday’s announcement gives a great opportunity to reflect on what it means for the Council.

The rating, set at Aa2 and just one level below that of the United Kingdom’s sovereign rating, has been assigned by Moody’s Investors Service – a very well established and respected name in global finance.  Moody’s undertook a very thorough process of assessment and risk analysis which tested our financial management and corporate governance systems.  Confirmation we’ve been successful in achieving the Aa2 rating is an independent verification of the great work being done throughout the Council to set and maintain the very highest standards.

I’m extremely appreciative of the contribution of all who have played a part in this in so many different ways, not least those who have been at the centre of the work required to achieve the credit rating in recent weeks and months.  Its been a fantastic team effort.

As you may have seen in the media coverage following the announcement, Moody’s made a number of observations and said their decisions reflected Aberdeen City Council’s “strong institutional framework” as well as a “strong track record of operating performance”.  Further details can be found in the media release accompanying the announcement which is accessible from this link.

In short, this announcement is something we should all be proud of.  It represents another important step as we continue on our Shaping Aberdeen journey and I look forward to continuing on that path with you.

Bailey Gwynne

This morning has seen the release of the conclusions and recommendations of Andrew Lowe’s independent review of the circumstances surrounding the death of Bailey Gwynne at Cults Academy on 28th October 2015.  The document published today is available on the Zone.

Set out below is the statement I gave on behalf of the Chief Officers Group at today’s media conference:

Firstly, it is of course impossible to begin with anything other than a reflection on what took place at Cults Academy a year ago. What happened then was a tragedy which saw a young life lost and had a traumatic impact on so many other lives. The Chief Officers Group pays tribute to the extraordinary dignity and fortitude shown by Bailey’s family. We also gratefully acknowledge the incredible work undertaken by many staff across all of our organisations as the terrible events unfolded on 28th October.

The Chief Officers Group and the teams we represent are determined to implement any changes to practice that aim to decrease the likelihood of such an awful event taking place in the future. But we are well aware that no amount of future change will alter the fact that Bailey is no longer with us and that his loss continues to be keenly felt.

As you know, once the trial concluded at the High Court in Aberdeen in March this year, the Chief Officers Group commissioned Andrew Lowe to undertake a review. The aim was to provide independent assurance to our organisations and to the public that all circumstances in relation to Bailey’s death have been examined. And to make appropriate recommendations which can be applied for future practice.

Mr Lowe has now reported to the Chief Officers Group and we thank him for his work. The conclusions that he has reached and the recommendations he has made have been shared this morning.

I confirm that our Chief Officers group is committed to taking forward all the actions that fall to our organisations individually or jointly to progress. Work will begin immediately on the implementation plan called for by Mr Lowe’s final recommendation and reports will be taken into our organisations’ governance structures over the coming weeks.

Two of the recommendations are made to the Scottish Government and we will work closely with colleagues there.

I fully appreciate that the language of conclusions, recommendations and implementation plans is dry and impersonal in very stark contrast to the human stories at the heart of the review.

When he was working on his review, Mr Lowe had access to a wide range of confidential files containing the most personal information relating to individuals.

He has also undertaken one-to-one interviews with more than forty people. As a result the narrative of his report setting out his findings contains a great deal of sensitive, confidential and legally restricted information. This narrative has not been published today for legal and data protection reasons.

However, the Chief Officers Group is committed to the publication of the report. With that in mind we have already instructed colleagues within each of our organisations to work together. We have asked them to put in place a process that seeks the necessary permissions from the individuals referenced in the report in order to make publication possible. As soon as possible.

We were determined to ensure that this very necessary process didn’t delay the release today of the review’s conclusions. We are equally determined that there will be no delay in the work required by each of us to deliver against Mr Lowe’s recommendations.

We have also set up a help line which will be staffed by Educational Psychologists from this afternoon until Thursday 5pm. This could be extended depending on the number of calls we receive.

That number is: 01224 764515.

Counsellors will also be available for the same period in the school to talk to young people, families or staff as necessary.

As part of our commitment to learning lessons we will share the conclusions and recommendations nationally.