Sep 172021
 

Ayanna Witter-Johnson

By Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen Performing Arts’ award-winning music festival, True North will return from 23-26 September for a weekend of live music and free events, boasting an inspirational and vibrant line up of shows and Fringe events at venues across the city.

True North will be based around the theme of Rise Up, celebrating freedom of expression, diversity and community as we prepare to re-open and welcome back audiences to the Music Hall, Lemon Tree and His Majesty’s Theatre for the first time since March 2020.

American singer songwriter and former Czars frontman John Grant will headline True North at the Music Hall on the Saturday evening.

John Grant

Described as ‘the misfit’s misfit’, Grant is too weird to be mainstream, too mainstream to be weird; too sad to be happy, too sharp not to crack a mordant joke about it.

The dolorous ace in his song-writing pack is to gauge impressionistic childhood experiences against their amplified adult consequences.

Rachel Sermanni

He will be supported by acclaimed Scottish performer Rachel Sermanni.

Grammy and MOBO award-winning star Corinne Bailey Rae will close the festival on Sunday with a specially curated concert at the Music Hall called “A Celebration of Stevie Wonder by Corinne Bailey Rae.”

The evening will see Corinne joined by special guests to perform the many legendary hits from the catalogue of Stevie Wonder songs in what promises to be an extraordinary evening of music.

.

With previous True North curated concerts celebrating the music of Neil Young, David Bowie and Kate Bush among others, this concert at True North has become a highlight of the festival and a firm favourite among audiences.

Headlining on Friday night at the Lemon Tree with a Night of New Voices is the soulful, eclectic Ayanna Witter-Johnson.  A singer, songwriter, cellist, composer, producer and arranger with phenomenal musical prowess, mesmerising vocals, uncompromising lyrics and mastery of the cello. Ayanna unapologetically imprints her unique musical signature into her music.  

Heir of the Cursed, Robyn Davidson and DJ Rebecca Vasmant complete the line-up.

Ransom FA

Aberdonian grime rapper Ransom FA will head up late night at the Lemon Tree on Saturday.  The fast-rising artist, was a contestant on the UK TV show, The Rap Game, where he battled other budding rappers for a record deal.  

Prior to the Rap Game, Ransom had already shared the stage with many of the biggest UK rappers, such as Skepta, Wiley, Mist, M Huncho to name only a few. He will be joined by Chef, Sean Focus and DJ HomeAlone.

Playing on Thursday 23 September and kicking off True North 2021 will be Peaness, who will be bringing their catchy, fuzzy, harmony-driven indie-pop songs about love, friendship, frustrations, Brexit and food waste to the Lemon Tree.

Formed in 2014 in Chester university digs, the trio have secured nationwide and international shows with bands such as The Beths, Kero Kero Bonito, The Cribs, We Are Scientists, The Big Moon and Dream Wife. They will be joined at the Lemon Tree by Swim School and Lavender Lane.

A spoken word event specially commissioned by Aberdeen Performing Arts and headed up by award winning poet and three-time slam champion Jo Gilbert will focus on the festival’s theme of Rise Up.

Four local spoken word artists will produce new work based around this theme and showcase their work at the Lemon Tree on Sunday in an event which promises to challenge and inspire in equal measure.

Fringe events are planned to take place in venues across the city over True North weekend and details will be announced shortly.

Ben Torrie, Aberdeen Performing Arts’ Director of Programming and Creative Projects said:

“We are thrilled to announce the lineup for True North 2021, which feels like a huge step in the return of live performance at our venues. It feels really good to be able to bring the festival to a live audience once again.

“It means a lot to us to be able to put this on for people in Aberdeen, and to shine a spotlight on so many talented performers and musicians is a privilege that has never been so important.

“The theme of this year’s festival is Rise Up. It’s a positive message about rising up to bring people together, marking the re-opening of our venues, and celebrating the power of music to help us stand up for the things we believe in. We could not be prouder of this festival at this time.”

Tickets for all True North events are available from www.aberdeenperformingarts.com

 

Sep 072021
 

By Craig Chisholm.

After a COVID induced hiatus, live music is finally making a return to the Granite City and one of the first major events to happen will be a gig by veteran Scottish indie legends Teenage Fanclub at the city’s iconic Beach Ballroom.

Touring in support of recent acclaimed album ‘Endless Arcade’ – their 12th studio album – the iconic band will undertake an extensive UK & Irish tour that includes dates in Edinburgh, a sold-out Glasgow Barrowlands and, of course, Aberdeen.

The band are no strangers to Aberdeen having played some of the city’s most famous venues including the Lemon Tree, Moshulu, Music Hall & AECC. They actually played the Beach Ballroom in one of their earliest gigs in Aberdeen, supporting Primal Scream way back in 1989.

Teenage Fanclub play the Beach Ballroom on Wed, 15th September. Support provided by Poster Paints’.

Tickets to the Beach Ballroom are available on Ticketmaster now.

Sep 072021
 

By Craig Chisholm.

Young British guitarists Mikhail Asanovic and Jake Wright, together known as The Showhawk Duo, have dazzled audiences worldwide with their spectacular approach to playing the guitar, breaking down barriers between acoustic and electronic music.

Whether playing old-school trance classics or modern funky house, their live show knows no boundaries and will leave you amazed.

Mik is a classical guitarist at heart, having studied at Manchester’s RNCM whereas Jake is an electric junkie and grew up playing in rock and metal bands. Mik’s classical foundation shines through in the music with Jake’s raw percussive approach always keeping the crowd moving.

Together they create a truly unique and impressive sound, and have turned many “acoustic” nights into a thumping rave. 

Together, they started out as buskers and have since gone on to play all over the globe.

They have appeared on BBC Radio 1 on the Nick Grimshaw’s Breakfast Show,  did a 40 minute live broadcast for the LAD Bible, BBC Radio Bristol, and have performed at most of the UK’s large festivals including Main Stage at Bestival, Glastonbury, Isle of Wight Festival, Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Somersault, Lost Village, Boomtown and more.

They played sell-out shows on their 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019 UK tours, headlining The O2 Forum in the most recent, and five star reviews followed an official sell out show at Edinburgh Fringe.

International performances include F1 Grand Prix in Singapore, Seychelles, club tours in Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands and a 20 – date residency at Pacha in Ibiza. 

Now, the duo will perform on stages across the nation, as they embark on their mammoth UK and Ireland tour.

Spanning 26th different dates – including a date at Unit 51 in Aberdeen on Saturday, October 9th – the duo will unleash their fiery acoustic sound to audiences far and wide, as they turn soft acoustic guitars into the ingredients for an unforgettable night of raving.

Support comes from Zen Lewis.

Ages 14+ // Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets available now at Skiddle.

Aug 242021
 

When the granite stairs went temporarily missing from the custodianship of Aberdeen City Council and its contractor Balfour Beatty, questions arose over how the city looked after its valuable property. The conclusions are shocking. By Suzanne Kelly

Aberdeen City Council cannot say with certainty where 1,500 valuables in its possession are.

This information was acquired in response to a freedom of information request by Aberdeen Voice following the confusion over the whereabouts of the Victorian granite steps which are part of Union Terrace Gardens.

The request was to cover items in the Aberdeen Art Gallery, Town House including gifts from outside organisations, and in entities such as Provost Skene’s House.

The city responded as follows:

“Although c. 1500 items have a ‘missing’ status, we have assigned around 3100 items with temporary numbers; many of which have become disassociated from their accession number e.g. the label with the number has become separated from the object.

“It is highly likely that there is an overlap between these two categories and we will be able to reconcile in the future by undertaking research in to the extensive paper files pre-computerisation. The remaining temporary numbers are items stored in the buildings but not accessioned into the collections.

“Many of the ‘historical loss pre-TMS’ records refer to a ‘missing’ date of 2020. It is important to note that these items were missing before we began using TMS in 2002, however, their status was confirmed as ‘still missing’ in 2020 as data cleaning work was undertaken.

“A number of items have been recorded as ‘missing’ and requiring further investigation during the decant of the art gallery in 2015. As we were moving thousands of items between buildings we suspected an admin error occurred in the recording of blocks.”

The city is meant to supply, electronically is the preference, an inventory of the valuables in question, but they advise they are having difficulties with the spreadsheet.

The city said no insurance claims have been made in the past 5 years.

The request is on the ‘What Do They Know’ Freedom of Information request website, visible to any other reporters or newspapers that are interested in Aberdeen City Council, where the city’s reply was posted on 29 June.

What Do They Know helps anyone who wants to make FOI requests or look at existing FOI requests. They run on donations and can be found here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Mar 092021
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

It appears Marischal Square is nothing like the money-spinner city taxpayers were promised.

Within that glass box building, one of the most repugnant carbuncles to disgrace Aberdeen in recent years, government, multinationals and food businesses are enjoying sweeteners in the form of rent holidays, discounts and more.

Figures obtained through Freedom Of Information requests reveal that, to date, these sweeteners amount to nearly £4.5m.

Other costs have been estimated by the ‘We Campaigned Against Marischal Square’ group, which like Aberdeen Voice, has been fighting for data from Aberdeen City Council under FOI law.

We Campaigned posted:

“By my reckoning, since opening, MS has COST US £18 million so far. It’s taken in around £3 million and we have paid Muse/Aviva rent > £15 million plus we’ve spent around £3 million in operational costs.

How do we stop this financial mismanagement? Can we hold anyone to account? (We also have £1.3 BILLION debt to pay back the bond – interest payments of £40 million per year).”

Should the council have decided to go into the commercial rental sector with a new build? Did it have the expertise in house?

At one point the city claimed it had no idea of the amount of rent each individual business was paying, and that only Muse knew this.

If true, it’s a shocking dereliction of fiscal responsibility. Effectively, it makes freedom of information requests hard to successfully lodge, as Aberdeen Voice and ‘Stop the Desecration of Marischal Square’ have found.

The following companies moved in. The list shows the value of their sweeteners. 

Tenant / Approximate sweetener total
Aberdeen Journals Ltd / £1,710,630
Tony Macaroni / £225,000
Chevron / (£285,270 min, £570,540 max) £427,905
Ernst & Young / £570,420
Mitchells & Butlers / £187,500
Tenaris / £116,215
KPMG / £266,535
Scottish Ministers / £582,905
Costa / £59,800
National Westminster Bank / (£193,847 min £ 243,306 max) £218,576
Prezzo / £46,200
Mackies / £38,200
TOTAL = £4,449,886.00

Aberdeen City Council was less than forthcoming with this information Only after the Information Commissioner’s office interceded did they release the information.

Anyone wanting to see the actual heads of terms agreements for the rents showing duration, other perks granted eg. carpeting allowances and free parking, size of space rented, etc, will find this hard-fought-for information here. 

As an aside, when finally handing this information over, the city tried to claim the documents were so large that they could only pass them over if Aberdeen Voice opened an account with ACC.  This nonsense was quickly countered. An account with ACC to access its FOI documentation or make requests is not required.

The ‘too large documents’ were under fifty pages in total.

The city is competing with the private sector in creating this building, just a time when Brexit impacts and the changes in the oil industry reverberate. Sir Ian Wood is busy trying to convince central government to build yet more offices and industrial space in the city. Doubtless he’ll get his way.

The businesses that moved out of existing spaces to Marischal such as KPMG leave behind empty office space and take income from the private sector.

In order to compete with the private sector in a market where office space is hardly in short supply, ACC uses the taxpayers’ largess to dole out the sweeteners.

Aberdeen Voice will try to determine whether the city is giving any further rent breaks or sweeteners to their Marischal Square tenants

The businesses forced to close, yet forced to pay for Aberdeen Inspired/business rates may look with some justified envy on the treatment given to national chains, multinationals and Aberdeen Journals Ltd.

Damian Bates, disgraced former Aberdeen Journals Ltd empresario, alluded to the fact the city was already subsidising its rent at Lang Stracht.

Why a genuine news corporation would be willingly indebted to a government with so many stories that should be robustly investigated is not a mystery – the city used to spend quite heavily on advertising in the rags.

However, the P&J and EE no longer refer to Marischal Square as ‘controversial’ and seem happy to sing its praises.

The city recently said it is £30,000,000 in debt.

Many consider this figure to be considerably lower than the reality. Where it will be in a year’s time is anyone’s guess – but if it is banking on Marischal Square, it’s doomed.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Feb 262021
 

It’s back to business for convicted sex-offender Aberdeen City Councillor Alan Donnelly. His suspension from his role as a councillor ends 3rd of March. Suzanne Kelly writes.

Alan Donnelly was convicted in December 2019 for a November 2018 sexual assault on a young male waiter while attending a civic function in his capacity as councillor

He was given interim suspensions on full pay before a Standards Commission for Scotland hearing was held which allowed him to continue as a councillor.

In November 2020, two years after the assault, Standards declared that a further four month suspension was all the stricture required.

Standards justified their decision saying Donnelly was cooperative, had no previous referral to Standards, and had not received a custodial sentence. The Standards hearing panel could have removed him had they chosen.

Donnelly’s first hearing date was postponed on health grounds His attempt to likewise put off his November 2020 hearing failed.

Perhaps not even Standards could justify another postponement on revelation that Donnelly had enjoyed several holidays while suspended.

In response to the hugely unpopular decision, a formal complaint was made to Ethics Standards in Public Life. Ethics’ role had been to issue a report to Standards before any hearing could be set.

The complainant asked:

  • Why did it take Ethics until June 2020, six months after Donnelly’s conviction, to issue a report?
  • Why did Ethics decide not to give the victim an opportunity to make a statement?
  • Does Ethics took sexual assault seriously?

Ethics found its officers acted properly. There is no avenue for appeal.

Ethics claims it had to determine whether Donnelly was perceived as being a councillor when attacking the young man at a social function.

Donnelly is expected at a crucial council budget meeting

Donnelly’s city council register of interests clearly reflected he attended in place of Councillor Lumsden.

Instead, Ethics waited weeks to hear what the venue managers thought.

ACC Councillor Jennifer Stewart was quoted in the local press saying the sexual assault ‘didn’t sound too bad’. The victim could have been approached for comment, but they were excluded from proceedings.

During its investigation, Ethics was so deluged with complaints about Donnelly it refused to hear anything further.
Had they not shut the public out, they might have learned of a 2001 incident.

While in an ACC social work post, Donnelly reportedly took a sex offender to a bar against rules and was disciplined for it. Standards might not have concluded Donnelly’s improper conduct was a ‘one off’ had this information been presented.

Apparently one sexual assault on its own is not deemed sufficient to stop someone serving as a councillor.

On the 10th of March, Donnelly is expected at a crucial council budget meeting. The meeting was originally set for March 3rd  – the final day of Donnelly’s period of suspension.

However, council business manager Ryan Houghton arranged a postponement, ostensibly relating to central government’s imminent budget announcement.

Donnelly is expected to vote with the reigning Labour/Tory coalition just as he did in 2020 in a meeting that took place the day before his suspension.

Donnelly was a Tory and part of said coalition until he went ‘independent’ coinciding with the sexual assault conviction.

The Labour councillors in this unholy alliance are suspended from the party for defying orders and aligning with Tories. To say that Aberdonians are looking forward to the May 2022 elections is an understatement.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.
Feb 212021
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

As seen in our earlier article https://aberdeenvoice.com/2021/02/acc-taxi-driver-grant-handling-to-be-investigated/ , central government is giving £1500 one-off grants to eligible taxi drivers who have lost trade during lockdowns. 

Edinburgh, Glasgow and other cities are distributing the funds to drivers who answer a series of questions online, submit ID, and supply bank account and sort code details.   

In Aberdeen, things are not quite so straightforward.

Aberdeen City Council’s handling of the grant is being reviewed by central government and data protection agencies following Aberdeen Voice’s investigations. 

Drivers here are told they can only apply electronically, must open a user account on the city’s website to access the application, and must submit a bank’s official statement showing a month’s worth of transactions.

A central government spokeswoman said: 

“The requirement for the bank details is an SG condition but that is just literally account number and sort code so people can be paid into their account.  Our guidance states that drivers must provide bank account details and local authorities can request appropriate additional evidence to determine eligibility.”

As a Glasgow city council spokesman we contacted added: 

“The webpage doesn’t say that transactions within the account have to be shown, only the name, address, account number and sort code. A bank statement with redacted transactions is therefore acceptable.”

A spokeswoman from the Information Commissioner’s office said unofficially that she would redact transactions if asked for a statement.

ACC will neither back down from nor explain its position. The type of statement an account holder can print off themselves is not accepted; the bank must issue an official statement to satisfy ACC.

Should anyone think it is not a big deal to hand a month’s worth of financial transactions over to ACC, AV is pleased to remind readers that in 2018 ACC was investigated for a massive data breach when it sent personal details such as salary and NI numbers to third parties. 

In 2019, it was reported by Jon Hebditch of the Press & Journal that the city’s computers were hacked no fewer than 15 MILLION TIMES.

Why does ACC need to see what a driver is buying and where they are spending their money?  

A driver approached us who sent in their unredacted bank details and they advise they have had two attempted identity thefts following their application.  Of course, this may be wholly coincidental, but it highlights the need for privacy.

Many banks, mobile companies, credit card companies will sometimes ask for details of a previous transaction in order to verify the identity of a phone caller.  Anyone who gets hold of a bank statement can make an identity theft bid.

Data protection laws say personal data must not be collected unless it is required for a specific transaction, and must be destroyed once it is no longer needed.  Once a driver proves who they are, their eligibility and their bank name, account number and sort code, there is no need for that driver’s financial transactions to be seen by anyone.

The question is, why does Aberdeen City Council think knowing a driver’s bank transactions is any of their business or relevant for issuing a grant once the driver establishes identity and eligibility?

Many drivers are understandably unhappy then that ACC wants sight of the applicant’s individual bank transactions.  Derek Davidson told AV: 

“I wasn’t aware transactions could be redacted. My understanding was that if you did this it could affect your claim being processed.”

Who in ACC will see this data and whether or not it will be destroyed as soon as it is no longer needed are unclear. 

What is clear is that ACC does not need to see any personal transaction details to pay people money they are due. AV is trying to get the council to remove this intrusive, potentially illegal invasion of privacy.

After several attempts by AV to get ACC to explain its invasive requirement, we have received a list of rules and regulations, and an assertion that central government did not specify how to handle the roll out. 

The city was asked if it will now follow Glasgow’s example (other councils allow redaction too, we understand) and let drivers conceal their individual bank transactions.  No answer to this simple question was offered.

If the city does reverse its policy, we will advise.  However, as ACC is dragging its feet since it was first approached, and we know drivers are in great need of the money, it may well come too late. 

An Information Commission Office spokeswoman commented:

“As mentioned we can’t give a judgement before knowing the full facts and being able to establish formally what information the council wants, how it is being used, what their privacy policy states etc.  If someone complains to us then we would look at the detail and possibly make further enquiries if necessary.

“As per our statement,  if people are concerned about how their personal data is used they can raise it with ACC and then the ICO.”
 
We urge anyone with data protection issues to issue a complaint both to ACC and the Information Commissioner – here is the link again to their complaints procedure:  https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/, and here is ACC’s chief executive’s email address:  chiefexecutive@aberdeencity.gov.uk

AV will be happy to hear from anyone impacted by the issues arising.

Aberdeen Voice maintains that the city’s press office has the ability to check with every department, and could have learned more about the issue if it needed to. 
 
We will try to find out why it chose not to do so and why it is choosing to doubt AV’s story.
 
  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.

Feb 172021
 

Thanks to Ian Stuart Baird.

Residents in Torry, Aberdeen opposed to the possibility of St. Fittick’s Park being lost to development, have stepped up their activities by launching a website and announcing a photo competition to increase awareness of the threat to the precious green space at the heart of their community.

After the publication of the Proposed Local Development Plan (2022) in March and neighbour notifications had dropped through letterboxes in June, shocked residents realised the catastrophic potential of the proposed changes in the LDP.

A small informal group meeting on Zoom and Facebook realised that the fight for the park would be a long one. The group would need to become bigger, open to all and representing all views, so a steering committee – Friends of St Fittick’s – was formed.

The stated mission of the Friends of St Fittick’s Park  is to:

focus on ensuring the survival of St Fittick’s Park, and improve the engagement and experience the local people have with this fantastic natural space’.

Local people have been angered by the rezoning of the Green Space to an opportunity site (OP56) in the Local Development Plan where development as one of the sites in the Energy Transition Zone adjacent to Aberdeen South Harbour would be favoured.

A similar rezoning would apply to Doonies Farm, another valuable local resource.

They are worried that even more land might be threatened as the ETZ’s Feasibility Study identifies the southern section of Balnagask golf course as another potential ETZ site and the northern one as part of a proposed Energy Coast all round the Bay of Nigg.

Announcing the launch group member David Hunter said:

“This proposal is a slap in the face for the people of Torry. Aberdeen South Harbour has already deprived us of the Bay of Nigg but residents were promised that St. Fittick’s Park would be preserved.

“We support the concept of energy transition but destroying a complex wetland ecosystem and a green space which is at the heart of the local community is certainly not the way to go about it.”

As well as mitigating climate change as a carbon sink and a flood plain, St. Fittick’s Park provides the community with educational opportunities, a buffer between housing and the South Harbour, and benefits its physical and mental health.

By highlighting these current diverse roles and imagining future improved and new ones, the group, through its web site and with community engagement, is encouraging both locals and those in the wider Aberdeen community to realise what an enormous asset we have, and to do everything possible to protect and improve it.

A photo competition has been launched both to encourage more people to visit the park, and for the photos to capture the threatened essence of the space and share with others.

Prizes totalling £100 will be awarded, the entries later published on the website and, Covid-19 permitting, displayed in a public space.  Full details are on the website.

The Friends of St. Fittick’s Park are encouraging people to join the group and support them by raising awareness, letter-writing, fund-raising and generally helping to protect the Park now and in the future.

Feb 092021
 

by Paul GallBy Suzanne Kelly.

Aberdeen Voice has heard from a parent whose child was the target of a vile online groomer.

As reported in The Daily Record (3 Feb 2021), Shaun Struthers was convicted at Aberdeen Sheriff court of sending sexual communications and images to the child.

The 30-year-old engineer was handed a community payback order and put on the sex offenders register for five years; there was no fine and no custodial sentence.

The parent, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said:

“I just never want anyone to suffer like this if I can help.”

There are things parents can do to keep children and young people safe. The website Tutorful makes these recommendations:

Ensure you talk with your children to make sure they understand why those age limits are in place. The companies behind these platforms have these limits in place to help protect young children from potential online dangers.

Find out what platforms your children use. If you know what platforms your children are accessing and using, then you can read into the age limits for these and also how safe they really are. Knowing this information can help you protect your child.

Install software/filters to stop your children accessing inappropriate sites. There are many pieces of software that can allow you to block access to certain sites that you feel may be inappropriate for your children.

Make sure your children know they can always come to you with any issues. Ensuring your children know that you will help them with any issues they may have online can help prevent them from keeping any problems to themselves and enabling them to get worse.

Teach your children to be aware of strangers online and that if they don’t know someone who’s trying to talk to them the best thing to do is not reply and block them.

The parent we spoke to said:

“I would just like to warn parents to constantly check their children’s gadgets & look out for any change in behaviour & not put it down to low moods just being a teenager. Also to be on guard even around family as sometimes these are the people to be most wary of.”

Feb 092021
 

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 Scottish Government recently announced a scheme to help with £1500 one-off grants. 

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 [2021] 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.

  • Comments enabled – see comments box below. Note, all comments will be moderated.