By Suzanne Kelly.
Many area taxi drivers are suffering.
Not only has lock down stopped most of the journeys people would have made, but the city’s draconian and Byzantine laws, which stopped city businesses making and receiving deliveries and which created arcane one-way traffic systems, prevented people from making swift in-and-out taxi journeys to buy essentials.
Now the city seems to be fumbling on a new front.
The central government website says:
“If you are eligible for a grant your local authority will get in touch with you, starting from week commencing 18 January 2021. You do not need to contact them.”
Derek Davidson, 57, of Bridge of Don, has been a driver for 21 years. Mr Davidson told Aberdeen Voice:
“The grant will help drivers pay fixed costs such as car loans and insurance which were not included in the grants given by the U.K. government. The Scottish government were clear that these grants would be administered by the council and paid out by the 31st January.”
Three key points from the Scottish government website are: that an applicant’s council will need your bank details, that the scheme started week commencing 18 January, and that correspondence can be by phone, email or letter.
An Aberdeen City Council told Aberdeen Voice otherwise, claiming:
* the scheme only started on 26 January.
* an official bank statement be supplied – despite a driver’s private financial transactions having nothing to do with their eligibility. A print out from logging into your account is not acceptable.
Applicants should not need to supply more than their bank name, sort code and account number once they have proved they are eligible and submitted ID.
This official bank statement requirement will also delay payments while applicants write to their bank to get an official statement (many banks convinced customers to opt out of paper statements long ago for environmental and cost-saving reasons).
ACC demands that all correspondence be handled electronically.
As Mr Davidson points out – not everyone has email and not everyone has a home computer.
Once an applicant gets the official statement from their bank, they apparently need to scan it to comply with ACC’s email only directive.
ACC seems to require drivers to open an account on the city’s website before they can even access the application form.
(NB The Scottish Information Commissioner is looking into ACC’s attempts to make FOI requesters sign up – those who want to make requests should insist on the freedom not to sign up, and/or use the website whatdotheyknow.com to lodge FOI requests.)
This extra layer of unnecessary bureaucracy will mean every time a user is logged in, a trail of what they have accessed on the ACC website will come to exist.
Not everyone who does FOI requests or who wants to apply for a grant they deserve wants ACC to be able to know what they are looking at for instance. There is no legal requirement on those who want to correspond and do business by letter to fall in line with ACC.
If, as some correspondence sent to drivers indicates, avoiding paper, letters is somehow a Covid-19 safety measure, then surely school teachers and staff must not touch any paper either.
Mr Davidson said:
“I’m not sure why the council would need to see the drivers’ bank statements as it is an invasion of privacy in my opinion. All they needed was our sort codes an account numbers. It is also wrong that people are excluded if they don’t have an email address.
“The council undertook to administer the grants and should have had adequate procedures in place to ensure every driver was included. I’d be interested to know what happens to any unclaimed money.
In terms of eligibility, our tax records show we have been paying our way as taxi drivers and that should have been all the proof they needed for distribution of the grants.”
Central government advises it will look at how ACC is handling the administration of this grant.
ACC doubled-down when AV requested clarification on why they seem to diverge from the central government’s information on the grant. A spokesman said:
“The terms agreed through Cosla and SLAED is for all Local Authorities to administer the funds through an online application process – every local authority has done so.
“The application form was published on the council website on 26 January  and we contacted drivers the same day.
“Local authorities are required to be assured of the validity of any supporting information requested in determining eligibility for a grant.
“Every local authority requires details of the applicant’s bank statements to verify this is a legitimate applicant and not a third party using the licence and name of a driver. The Council has a privacy notice for the data handling process in respect to the scheme which is published on the website.”
AV will update further once central government advises. We will be happy to hear from any drivers who are impacted.
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