Council gives unanimous backing for St David’s Day bank holiday
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Councillors in Gwynedd have unanimously backed calls to end the “embarrassing” anomaly of the Welsh Government being unable to designate St David’s Day as a national Bank Holiday.
A motion by Cllr Elwyn Edwards, which was unanimously backed by the full council, will also compel the cabinet to explore offering authority’s staff a day’s leave on March 1.
“It makes no sense whatsoever that we, as a country, do not have the power to choose days of national importance to mark our very own history, heritage and language,” said Cllr Edwards, the Plaid Cymru member for Llandderfel.
As a result of the vote, a letter will now be sent to the UK Government calling for the devolution of the powers to create bank holidays for Wales via the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, despite the powers already being used to designate respective patron saint Bank Holidays in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“Obviously, our schools and care workforce will need to be looked at in more detail, as they are vital and important key services,” added Cllr Edwards.
“We must also recognise that there are many events organised to mark the occasion within our schools.
“Gwynedd is a Welsh language and cultural leader, it is therefore fitting that we, as a council, research the practicalities of this request, and encourage other councils across Wales to follow suit.
“Do the little things was St David’s message. Our hope now is that Westminster Government can do one small thing that could become something vast and important for us here in Wales.
“It is high time we had the rights to govern ourselves. We will continue to press for change.”
Successive UK Governments have so far failed to grant Wales such powers despite the then National Assembly voting unanimously in favour of such a move in 2000.
While in 2014 it was reported that First Minister Carwyn Jones had written to the Secretary of State for Wales to seek legislative competence to make Wales’ national day a bank holiday, but the move was rebuffed.
During the debate, Cllr Nia Jeffreys stressed there would be cost implications in providing an extra day off for staff and that the authority could not differentiate between different workers.
Adding it was “embarrassing” that the Senedd didn’t already possess the powers on Bank Holidays, she suggested that using already allocated leave for a St David’s Day holiday could be possible if discussions with unions proved to be successful.
Cllr Edgar Owen said: “There’s always an argument that a Bank Holiday would stop schools celebrating the day, but schools are closed on Christmas Day and they still celebrate the festive season.”
Cllr Dewi Roberts was supportive of the principle but mindful that there shouldn’t be a split between council staff and outside workers supporting the authority, while Cllr Alan Jones Evans suggested there would be economic benefits were a Bank Holiday to be implemented.
“St David’s Day should be part of the economic recovery in getting our countryside and towns back on their feet,” he added.
Cllr Mike Stevens said, “My only reservation of council staff getting an extra holiday is they have terms and conditions far better than those in the private sector.
“A lot of people in the private sector would envy them so I don’t think we should be giving them an additional holiday, it should come out of their holiday entitlement.”
With members unanimously backing the motion, a letter will now be sent to the UK Government calling for the powers to be devolved to Cardiff Bay, as well as a report to the council’s cabinet over the coming months.