Oct 082021
 

With thanks to Craig Chisholm.

The Quireboys finally make it to Aberdeen after rescheduling due to Covid restrictions.

They will be appearing at The Lemon Tree on Friday, Oct 15, and will be performing their landmark album “A Little Bit Of What You Fancy”.

To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of that iconic debut album the Quireboys recently released a re-recorded version with their distinctive gypsy rock and roll sound.

“A Bit of What You Fancy is where it all began for the Quireboys,” says the band’s frontman Spike.

“It was an incredible album that launched our career. However, the way we sound and play now doesn’t do it justice. Henceforth, it has been a pleasure updating it to our modern-day gypsy rock and roll sound. I’m sure everyone will enjoy this new version in all its glory, marking its 30th Anniversary.”

The Quireboys have always remained true to their roots from the start. The boy’s mission is simply to keep the spirit of good time rock ‘n’ roll alive and kicking into the 21st century.

The 30th Anniversary Edition of “A Bit Of What You Fancy” can be pre-ordered from www.offyerrocka.com/product- category/artists/the-quireboys

Troy Redfern and his three-piece band will support The Quireboys at all shows.

Hailed as Britain’s King of Slide Guitar, Hereford-based singer songwriter, Troy will perform songs from his critically acclaimed new album “The Fire Cosmic” which features the single “Ghosts” that was playlisted on Planet Rock and many other radio stations.

Says Music News.com:

“Troy Redfern is one of the country’s best players and writers and the album is a blast from start to finish.”

Taking up the guitar as a teen, Troy quickly absorbed his musical influences of the early blues pioneers and the energy of the 70’s and 80’s rock icons. The turning point came when he discovered open tunings and slide guitar.

“I immediately felt like I’d come home the moment I put a bottleneck on my finger and started playing slide, it instantly felt completely natural to me. This style of playing helped me find my true voice on the instrument”

The last few years has seen Troy shift into creative overdrive releasing five full length albums in 2020 alone, all receiving worldwide airplay and overwhelmingly positive reviews from the international press, “Island” and “Thunder Moon” both receiving multiple 5-star reviews.

Tickets are available in person at Aberdeen Box or online at https://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/whats-on/the-quireboys/

Oct 062021
 

By Craig Chisholm.

True North continued to cement its reputation as one of Aberdeen’s musical highlights of the year with another excellent event that showcased an eclectic and varied bill of excellent music.

After taking a brief hiatus from crowds last year – the event was online instead – it was encouraging to see people back in the Music Hall, Lemon Tree and numerous smaller venues and enjoying live music once more.

The number of events is slightly stripped back this with less late-night shows and no shows at The Tivoli Theatre but what was missing in quantity was more than made up in quality.

The Lemon Tree is the venue for the opening Thursday night event – a triple bill featuring Lavender Lane, Edinburgh’s Swim School and the indie pop of headliners Peaness. Providing the perfect start to usher in the weekend.

Friday night provides an even more varied bill. Opening musical proceedings is Aberdonian Katie Mackie.

Sat behind a keyboard she provides a short set of soaring baroque, chamber-pop that features a cover of Steely Dan’s ‘Dirty Work’.

Scottish / Kenyan multi-instrumentalist and poet Beldina Odenyo performs under the moniker Heir of the Cursed. Tonight, she plucks on heavily reverbed guitar and her operatic, hypnotic voice is soothing, expansive, and ethereal.

Despite a light-hearted between song gripe about the cost of salad in Aberdeen, her set is calm and transgressive, taking the crowd to a higher spiritual and musical space.

Singer-songwriter Ayanna Witter-Johnson is another rare talent.

Opening – rather boldly – with a dance, she picks up the more familiar cello for the remainder of her set.

Using a loop pedal she sounds like an entire band as opposed to one woman and an instrument.

Despite an unexpected power cut, Witter-Johnson delivers a strong, inspiring set that uplifts the audience.

Saturday night is the first of the Music Hall gigs.

Opening act Rachel Sermanni plays an intimate, minimalistic set. She somehow manages to make the cavernous Music Hall seem small and cosy, drawing the crowd into her private space.

A unique Scottish talent, she returns to The Lemon Tree in December.

Headliner John Grant is magnificent.
He cuts quite an imposing figure on stage – a large, hirsute bear of a man – but his voice is soothing but powerful.

Alternating between piano led torch songs and disco influenced bangers, he runs through a 100-minute set of dark humour, heartfelt confessionals, and unbridled joy. A stunning performance well deserving of the standing ovation at the end.

For those still looking to party into the night then the Lemon Tree is the place to be. Local rapper Ransom FA headlines an evening of beats, breaks and raps with support from DJ Home Alone, Bemz and Sean Focus.

Sunday night at True North is the traditional tribute night, curated and performed by a star performer.

This year, the performer is the talented Grammy Winner Corinne Bailey-Rae, and the subject of the tribute is the mercurial Stevie Wonder.

Looking radiant in a sparkly gold sequined dress, Bailey-Rae is every inch the superstar.

But this is not about her tonight, and she happily gives over the spotlight to guest vocalists such as Paix, Angus Munro, Jalen N’Gona and Little Acres.

And each more than hold their own and breathe new life in the songs of Stevie Wonder. The hits are all there – ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘Don’t You Worry About Thing’ by Bailey-Rae are particular highlights – but there’s also plenty of deep cuts, forgotten classics and album tracks to keep the die hard Wonder fans happy.

The night – and the weekend – is brought down with a rousing, run through of Wonder’s classic ‘Superstition’ that has the crowd on their feet, hungry for more and ecstatic at the collective feeling of joy.

Yet again, True North has proved to be a success and a jewel in the crown of the Aberdeen Music Scene.

With next to no concerts in the last 18 months, it’s been a cathartic and joyful event, a light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel and credit is due to the organisers, the venues, and the performers for pulling it all together in such a short, potentially unpredictable time.

Here’s to True North 2022, long may it continue!

Oct 062021
 

Glasgow’s The Ninth Wave  release new single “Piece and Pound Coins”, a new taster of their next full length body of work, due 2022. By Craig Chisholm.

A compelling piece, “Piece and Pound Coins” was produced by the band themselves and mixed by Max Heyes (Massive Attack, Doves, Lucia & The Best Boys, Primal Scream). Amidst a distinctly chilling atmosphere, rolling piano lines weave their way through chugging percussion with the track standing as a stark examination of grief and loss.

Speaking on the release of “Piece and Pound Coins”, singer Haydn Park-Patterson said: 

“I wrote this song about a friend who passed away a number of years ago. I’ve never really felt like I wanted to/could write about him for a number of reasons, but I guess the main one was because that for a long time, I wouldn’t have known what to write.

“Writing about death is a world away from writing about heartache/love/friendships because there’s nobody to listen to the song and wonder “is that about me?”.

“It’s a strange feeling, to write a song about someone that you know can’t ever hear it. The song also touches on the thought of wondering what he’d be up to now, 5 years on in his life, and how weird a thought it is that we’ve all continued on with our lives but his had a start and end point, and that’s it. No more memories to be made.

“The song also lets out a bit of confused anger that I felt not long after he passed, as I watched how a few people reacted to his death and the way in which they talked about it. That’s the meaning behind the line ‘death makes some people sad and some people ugly / and some people took your name for their own sake’.

“I like to think that he’d like the song, as he was one of the most supportive and positive-minded people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

The track has been released alongside a stunning video directed by Rianne White. She commented: 

“I feel completely in awe of this song and Haydn’s ability to frame such an immense feeling. Embraced by the catharsis of nature, the heights of grief and identity are expressed through a journey of Haydn’s internal growth accompanied by a symbolically poignant lone wolf.

I like to think of Hayden and the wolf as one, both finding their way back to their truest states of being with wild untamed hearts of companionship and eternal loyalty. “

The new single arrives off the back of the band’s recent singles ‘Everything Will Be Fine’ and ‘Maybe You Didn’t Know’; their Faris Badwan (The Horrors)-produced EP ‘Happy Days!’ (2020) and their AIM Award and Scottish Album of the Year-nominated debut album Infancy (2019).

Constantly developing and pushing their sound into exciting new territory, sonically The Ninth Wave are challenging expectations and preconceptions of their music with this new material.

Leaning toward influence from contemporaries such as Massive Attack, Young Fathers, Mount Kimbie and Portishead – the quartet assuredly retain their own distinct songwriting craft and approach.

Lyrically the new material also promises to be more upfront than ever before.

Celebrating honesty and real life, The Ninth Wave want their listeners to find comfort in their music. They want their fans to feel safe; to be confident in who they are, and to know they’re not alone with their feelings and anxieties.

“It’s a cathartic thing for both us and the listeners; we want to help with normalising being emotional and finding comfort within your stadness”, the band went on to say.

The Ninth Wave are widely praised across the board from The Guardian to Wonderland Magazine, NME, Dork Magazine, DIY Magazine and more – with radio support from BBC Radio 1 (Jack Saunders, Huw Stephens, Phil Taggart and Abbie McCarthy), BBC 6 Music (Steve Lamacq), and Radio X (John Kennedy).

Elsewhere the band’s music has been remixed by The Horrors, Dream Wife, The Twilight Sad, Mogwai, Low Spirits and Working Mens Club, along with tours and shows with Editors, Pussy Riot, CHVRCHES, Franz Ferdinand, Suede, The Magic Gang, Yonaka, and The Blinders.

The band play a date at Aberdeen Tunnels on 19th October.

Tickets are available here.

Band Website – https://theninthwave.online

Watch, “Piece and Pound Coins”: https://youtu.be/Sods9jZatuw

Stream, “Piece and Pound Coins”: https://theninthwave.lnk.to/PAPC

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/

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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.

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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.

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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.
 
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