Council rebuffs Plaid Cymru councillor’s bid to amend Welsh medium education plan
Ted Peskett, local democracy reporter
The draft of a council’s Welsh language plan has been submitted for approval despite a Plaid Cymru councillor’s efforts to have it amended.
Neath Port Talbot Council (NPTC) voted to submit the draft Welsh in Education Plan (WESP) to Welsh Ministers for approval at a full council meeting on February 2 as it rebuffed Cllr Alun Llywelyn’s attempts to propose an amendment.
The NPTC Plaid Cymru Group Leader proposed that the draft, which includes a number of measures to protect and promote the Welsh language for the whole county borough, exclude a section relating to the Swansea Valley area.
Last summer, councillors agreed to go ahead with controversial plans to build an English medium school for 750 pupils at Parc Ynysderw in Pontardawe.
The plans will also mean the closure of three primary schools – Alltwen, Godre’rgraig, and Llangiwg.
A complaint was recently made to the Welsh Language Commissioner, alleging that NPTC “did not sufficiently consider the Welsh language when consulting on a proposal to reorganise English medium primary schools in Pontardawe.”
At the meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Alun Llewelyn conceded that “there is much to welcome in the new draft”.
However, he added that he would like to “focus on one aspect of the WESP that continues to cause considerable concern, which is the re-organisation and centralisation of primary schools in the Swansea Valley” – something he claims has been opposed by parents in both Welsh and English medium primary schools.
Cllr Llywelyn expressed a preference to wait on the decision of the Welsh Language Commission concerning the complaint before agreeing on any mitigating measures for the Swansea Valley area in the draft WESP.
He noted that the draft’s appendix “lists potential mitigation measures for the impact of schools centralisation,” but claimed that “these do not accept the main findings of the independent specialist appointed by the Welsh Government.”
Cllr Llewelyn added: “If this is not resolved it could jeopardize the whole adoption and approval of the WESP by Welsh Government.”
The amendment put forward by Cllr Llewelyn called for the removal of the section in the draft relating to Swansea Valley and Swansea Valley mitigation measures ‘pending the outcome of the Welsh Language Commissioner’s investigation and an updated version provided at that point’.
The amendment failed, with many councillors expressing concern over delaying the submission of the Council’s draft any further.
Every year, councils in Wales are required to submit a WESP to demonstrate its aims to help the Welsh Government reach its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.
The draft that was voted through on Wednesday was praised by a number of councillors at Wednesday’s meeting.
Independent Councillor, Steve Hunt, said: “I welcome the WESP and the work that Neath Port Talbot [Council] has done.
“It’s a good piece of work, it’s an important piece of work and it should be welcomed.”
Cllr Arwyn Woolcock said: “Rather than cause a further delay, Mr Mayor, I would rather see the WESP being submitted today.
“It will not jeopardize any future amendments being put forward.
“If Cllr Llewelyn is insistent on putting forward an amendment, for the avoidance of any further delay I am going to have to vote against [it].”
In relation to the complaint that was put forward to the Welsh Language Commission, an NPTC spokesperson said: “The council is unable to comment while the Commission is dealing with the complaint.”
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