Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Council rapped over Welsh language failings says it’s struggling to recruit Welsh speakers

15 Sep 2023 3 minute read
Blaenau Gwent Council

Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter

A council which was found to have failed to meet required legal standards for its use of Welsh, is struggling to recruit Welsh speaking staff, according to its chief executive.

Last year, Welsh language commissioner Efa Gruffudd Jones found Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council had failed to comply with the legal standards set out in the Welsh Language Measure 2011.

The initial failure considered in the commissioner’s report had been the failure of the local authority to provide a Welsh language phone service.

Following the findings, a new policy to improve the use of Welsh inside the local authority was discussed at a meeting of the  council’s Corporate Performance and Overview scrutiny committee yesterday (14 September).

The council’s Interim chief executive Damian McCann was quizzed by about the practicalities of meeting the council’s legal obligations.

Cllr Tommy Smith asked: “I understand that this is a work in progress, but how realistic is that we meet all these statutory obligations.”

Cllr Smith added that he had recently spoken to a constituent who highlighted the phone-line problem.

They had wanted to speak to someone at the council in Welsh, were put on hold, and when the call was eventually answered, it was in English.

Cllr Smith “When they said they wanted to speak to someone in Welsh they were told they would be put back on hold while finding someone to speak to.”

“It’s not a criticism it’s customer feedback.”

Challenge

Mr McCann said: “We have in the region of 20 to 30 staff who can speak fluent Welsh who are scattered across the council in different departments.

“What the call centre try and do is find someone who is available who can take that call in Welsh.

“The difficulty and challenge we have is that only seven per cent of our population speak Welsh.

“We have tried for a number of years to recruit Welsh speakers to the call centre but that is extremely difficult, and we haven’t been successful.”

“I’m sure that those who can speak bilingually will be able to find work which is much better paid than what we provide in our call centres.

“We are desperately struggling – meeting the standards has been a challenge for us and other Gwent authorities because of the amount of Welsh speakers we have in the area.”

He added that things were being done to increase the number of Welsh speakers starting with education and schools, but it would take a “decade or two” before Blaenau Gwent is in a stronger position to implement the standards.

Cllr Julie Holt, who is learning Welsh, said: “I’m glad this is being taken seriously.”

Committee chairwoman, Cllr Joanne Wilkins; “This is a statutory obligation, and this committee is looking for assurances that things are going in the right direction via the action plan, as there also a reputational issue for the council.

“We need those assurances; I think we’ll need a progress report on this as it’s really important.”

The Action Plan and Welsh at Work policy will go on to be discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet next month.

The legal standards set out in the Welsh Language Measure 2011 require public bodies such as Blaenau Gwent council to treat Welsh “no less favourably” than English.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Graham
Graham
5 months ago

A decade or two? Cllr Julie Holt is very easily satisfied. I hope the Welsh Language Commissioner is not as patient.

L Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Graham

The Welsh Language Commissioner is paid between £95.000 and a £100.000 a year! Outrageous!😡

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago
Reply to  L Smith

That’s the going rate for a middle ranking government jobsworth. Much more advertised recently for some Bay based jobs despite the tight budgets and all the other drivel being trotted out as excuses for doing little or doing things badly.

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago

Despite my preference for a Welsh only regime as soon as possible I think we should cut Blaenau Gwent some slack due to their demographic deficiency. Unemployed Welsh speakers in other parts of Wales could be assessed and might agree to being transferred to the area to engage in these roles. Then they might sit at a work station all day long waiting for someone to ring in and ask for a Welsh medium service. I suspect there are other much more pressing priorities.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
5 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

I agree. I have close friends in Brynmawr and you just never encounter anybody speaking in Welsh. My godson was very enthusiastic to try out the Welsh he’s learned in School only to find the bus driver couldn’t understand it. I wouldn’t want to transfer there, even if had the level of Welsh skills required; which I don’t but they still eclipse the knowledge of my friends. To be honest with the Borough is such a tired and dreary place I wouldn’t move there for any work, never mind to sit in call centre that nobody ever calls. I work… Read more »

Rhobert Davi8s
Rhobert Davi8s
5 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

 “Then they might sit at a work station all day long waiting for someone to ring in and ask for a Welsh medium service. I suspect there are other much more pressing priorities”

The world is a global world except for totalitarian states but there is a great advantage to Welsh medium services based on the phone. You can spend hours waiting for an English operative they are usually very busy but ring a Welsh language service.say Bore da, prynhawn da – followed by dim ond Cymraeg cerrig calch sydd gyda fi. and you are in.

Frank
Frank
5 months ago

“Struggling” to find Welsh speakers in Wales!!! You couldn’t make it up!!

Bachgen o Lerpwl
5 months ago
Reply to  Frank

There are plenty in Engla d.

Mark
Mark
5 months ago

WAG need to stump up the cash to attract Welsh speakers. It’s never going to happen otherwise.

Meic
Meic
5 months ago

An unresearched impact of the implementation of Welsh Language standards is the mokoglot areas of Wales are effectively mining Welsh speaking communities for workers. This diaspora may adversely impact bedrock Welsh speaking communities in the short and medium term but strengthen yr iaith across Wales in the longer term

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.