Blaenau Gwent Council Responds to Rap Over Welsh Language Compliance
COUNCILLORS will be told how Blaenau Gwent is responding to a rap over the knuckles by the Welsh language commissioner Efa Gruffudd Jones.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Performance and Overview scrutiny committee on Thursday, September 14 councillors will be told of a new policy to improve the use of Welsh inside the council.
This follows a judgment by the commissioner last year that the council are failing to comply with legal standards set in the Welsh Language Measure 2011.
The point of the standards is to ensure that public bodies such as Blaenau Gwent council are complying with its legal duty to treat Welsh “no less favourably” than English.
The commissioner’s main statutory aim is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language and that it can be used in everyday life.
In her report head of democratic services, governance and partnerships, Sarah King explained that the council had received an “Action Notice” from the commissioner for a failure to comply with standard 98.
Ms King said: “Standard 98 sets the requirement to produce a policy on
using Welsh internally for the purpose of promoting and facilitating the use of the language, which must also be published on the intranet (in house website).
“To ensure the council meets this requirement a draft Welsh in the Workplace
Policy has been developed taking into consideration guidance from the commissioner as well as considering good practice from other public bodies under the same duty.”
The purpose of the new draft policy is to:
“To encourage a positive attitude towards the Welsh language that
embraces Welsh culture with pride and respect.
“Increase the number of staff with Welsh language skills by providing
opportunities for employees to learn or improve their linguistic ability.
“Ensure the Welsh Language Measure 2011 is upheld on an organisation wide level.”
The policy will apply to all staff, volunteers, and councillors.
The policy also covers the need for Welsh language training as well as pointing new staff in the direction of where to find details of the language guidance internally.
This includes finding out useful phrases, bilingual greetings, and key words as well as office templates to use for such things as out of office messages.
The draft Welsh in the Workplace policy follows an investigation into the use of Welsh by Blaenau Gwent going back nearly two years.
In November 2021 complaints were made that Blaenau Gwent was not providing a Welsh language telephone service.
In April 2022 the council provided an initial response to the commissioner’s investigation, which in turn raised further compliance concerns.
This was with regard to promoting services, assessing the language skills of staff, providing training opportunities and assessing the language needs of job posts.
This caused the investigation to be widened to look at a number of additional operational standards.
In September 2022 the commissioner decided that Blaenau Gwent had failed to comply with the standards.
Since then, Blaenau Gwent have developed an action plan to improve Welsh at the authority which was signed off by the commissioner last March.
The draft policy is expected to be agreed by Blaenau Gwent’s Cabinet at a meeting next month with any comments and suggestions from the scrutiny meeting to be added to the final report.
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