Language campaigners call for ‘urgent action’ over fall in Ceredigion population
Language campaigners have called for “urgent action” from the Welsh Government after Ceredigion saw a significant drop in the population there.
On census day, 71,500 people were living in Ceredigion – down 6% from 75,922 in 2011, when the last census was carried out.
But there were even larger falls in the young population, with a fall of 28% in 15-19-year-olds and 22% of 20-24-year-olds.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s vice-chair Tamsin Davies said that the figures showed that the population of Wales’ Welsh language rural strongholds were ageing as young people left for better economic opportunities elsewhere.
Figures from Halifax last month showed that the west of Wales had seen the “biggest deterioration in house price affordability” over the last two years, with the gap between property prices and wages growing at the fastest rate in the UK.
“The results of the 2001 Census showed that the population in rural areas is ageing as young people leave,” Tamsin Davies said.
“Obviously that trend has continued and is happening on a bigger scale. We welcome the calls to hold a conference and create a body new to tackle the issue but there are things the government can do immediately as well.
“We have been calling for a Property Act that will secure a home for everyone, and prioritise local people for several decades. The need for a Property Act is more evident than ever, as local people, young people especially, are priced out of the local housing market.
“But good jobs are also needed. The Government itself is a large employer, and could lead the way by taking advantage of the trend for working from home and using community spaces; and it can encourage other bodies and organisations to do the same.”
‘Good for the planet’
Leading up to the 2021 General Election Cymdeithas yr Iaith published ‘More than a Million: Welsh Citizenship for Everyone’ which recommends:
- Establish a legal duty requiring it to promote economic growth and spread prosperity across the whole country
Decentralise the public sector by moving hundreds of jobs out of Cardiff
Establish the new National Communications Council and Menter Iaith Ddigidol in the western counties to be run through the medium of Welsh
Reopen the Aberystwyth-Carmarthen and Bangor-Porthmadog railway lines
Tamsin Davies added: “The practice of centralising services has seen the underfunding of rural communities over the years. The effects of that are showing now.
“We will be launching a Manifesto, setting out our vision for the future at the Eisteddfod. It draws attention to the link between the climate crisis and the challenges facing our communities and the language – and the common solutions between them.
“Protecting communities is central to both – what is good for our communities and the Welsh language is also good for the planet, and vice versa.”
Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, the former chief executive of the Welsh Language Board, Meirion Prys Jones, said that the population drop could endanger the Welsh language.
“The future of the Welsh language in Ceredigion is at stake if young people are not there to speak it,” he said.
“I don’t believe that it is within the ability of county councils to do this type of work, we need something much more powerful.
“Not the government, not the Welsh Language Commissioner, but another organization that has the power to do this kind of work to understand the situation across Wales, but to act much more locally – a body at arm’s length from the government.”
According to statistics released by Halifax last month, Pembrokeshire was the county worst hit in the whole of the UK for house price affordability, with Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion also in the top five.
The impact of surging property prices throughout the pandemic has reduced housing affordability to the lowest level on record, according to new research by Halifax, the UK’s biggest mortgage lender.
Halifax said that Pembrokeshire had been particularly hard hit as buyer demand has soared in rural locations offering greater space during the pandemic.
The house price-to-earnings ratio in Pembrokeshire has risen from 4.3 at the beginning of 2020, to now stand at 6.9 (+2.6).
In Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion people who needed 4.6 their earnings to buy a home now needed 6.5 their earnings to do so, two years later.
‘Continue to grow’
Wales as a whole had seen the ratio shift from 5.3 times the average earnings to 6.5 times. In practice, however many will be earning considerably less than the ‘average’ earnings of £32,467 used to calculate the figures.
Overall, Wales was the sixth least affordable part of the UK to buy a home, out of 12 nations and regions.
London was the least affordable with a 9.7 house price-to-earnings ratio. The northeast of England was most affordable with a 4.6 house price to earnings ratio.
Andrew Asaam, Mortgages Director, Halifax, commented: “There’s no question that the economics of buying a home have changed significantly over the last couple of years. Soaring property prices and slower wage growth have combined to stretch traditional measures of housing affordability.
“However, we also know from strong transaction levels that demand has remained extremely strong over that period, both from home-movers seeking bigger properties, and first-time buyers taking their first steps onto the ladder.
“With interest rates on the rise as a means of combatting inflation, it’s unlikely that house prices will continue to grow at the pace we’ve seen recently. This should see the gap between average earnings and property prices narrowing over time.
“It’s also important to highlight the responsible approach taken to mortgage lending in this environment, with lenders conducting thorough checks to ensure repayments are manageable even if interest rates rise more sharply in future.”
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