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Monmouthshire Council’s English-only sign policy falls foul of Welsh language commissioner

26 Sep 2022 4 minute read
An English only sign on Glendower Street, Monmouth

A council’s English-only sign policy has fallen foul of the Welsh Language Commissioner’s office.

Monmouthshire County Council had changed its policy to English-only street names and cited “safety benefits” to doing so, using the hypothetical example of a Welsh speaker calling emergency services to justify the move.

The Council made the decision after a report recommended that replacement or additional signs on existing streets be kept English-only.

The report suggested that including a Welsh place name could lead to a dangerous delay if it does not officially exist in the National Land and Property Gazetteer, which is used by the emergency services.

At the time, the then Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Richard John, had dismissed Nation.Cymru‘s reporting on the issue as “sensationalist and misleading click bait”.

However, now the Welsh Language Commissioner’s office has said that the council did not comply with legally binding requirements on the use of the Welsh language.

Gwenith Price, Deputy Commissioner for the Welsh Language, said: “Following a complaint from a member of the public, I conducted an investigation under section 71 of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 to determine whether there had been a failure by Monmouthshire County Council to comply with Welsh language standards.”

Under the Standards, in amending their policy, the Council needed to consider what effects, if any, the amendment would have on the opportunities to use the Welsh language, and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.

‘Less favourably’

The determination states that Monmouthshire County Council did not comply with the standards on the basis that:

  • the evidence does not show that the Council made a conscientious effort to identify and then consider the effects that its decision to amend the county’s Street Numbering and Naming policy would have on opportunities for persons to use the Welsh language, and on not treating the Welsh language less favourably than the English language
  • the evidence does not show that Monmouthshire County Council made a conscientious effort to consider how the County Street Numbering and Naming policy could be amended to so that the policy decision would have positive effects, or increased positive effects on opportunities for persons to use the Welsh language, and treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language
  • the evidence does not show that Monmouthshire County Council made a conscientious effort to consider how the County Street Numbering and Naming policy could be amended so that it did not have adverse effects, or so that it would have decreased adverse effects, on opportunities for persons to use the Welsh language, and treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.

The Deputy Commissioner imposed 15 enforcement actions on the Council to ensure it complies with the standards when formulating or modifying policy in the future.

Gwenith Price, Deputy Commissioner for the Welsh Language, said, “The Welsh Language Measure 2011 (Wales) makes it compulsory for certain organisations to comply with Welsh language standards by considering the opportunities for people to use Welsh and to not treat the Welsh language less favourably than the English language.

“The Commissioner’s main aim is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language. Organisations should not take decisions to do less for the Welsh language than they previously did, or to do the minimum where more progressive action in relation to the Welsh language was already being made.

“The suggestion repeatedly made by the Council that the policy had been amended to ‘comply’ with the Code of Practice is wrong and goes against the spirit of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and the role of the Welsh Language Commissioner.”


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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
2 months ago

Well the obvious thing is to ensure that names in both languages are recorded in the gazetteer. A policy of putting the most commonly used name on top might be a good idea. Also careful translations so that errors like calling Yorke Street in Wrexham Stryd Efrog don’t occur as that particular name is that of the Yorke family of local landowners. It would be a good idea if the expert knowledge of the Welsh Place Name Society was used. Ultimately a detailed scholarly list of all names including field and farm names should be compiled.

James
James
2 months ago

It has been! You can check it out here, tell all your friends!

James
James
2 months ago
Reply to  James
Frank
Frank
2 months ago

Is Monmouthshire’s “Glendower” suppose to be the English equivalent to “Glyndŵr” because if it is I did not know there was an English version of anyone’s name in any language. As far as I am concerned the man’s birth name was Owain Glyndŵr not Owen Glendower. The Anglicising of words is done and adopted by lazy people who cannot be bothered to find out how a word should be pronounced. However, Monmouthshire people still have a huge problem with which country they belong to. Everyone else knows but they themselves are not sure.

Cymro76
Cymro76
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Not all in Monmouthshire, but certainly the immigrants from across the border

hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago
Reply to  Cymro76

You mean colonists, goodlifers and other assorted supremacists?

Dafydd B
Dafydd B
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Diolch Frank, the sign pictured is opposite Monmouth public school and at a guess dates from the 50’s or 60’s. The new policy actually says that all new signs are Welsh only or bilingual. None are to be English only!! Really disappointed with the Commission as they have cherry picked in a sentence that with the benefot of hind sight was poorly worded. The rest of the policy is pro Welsh and is more supportive to the Language than quite a few larger councils in Wales eg Cardiff and Caerffili to name but two. Siomedig iawn Gwenith Price

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
2 months ago

Richard John?
Dic Sion Dafydd.

notimejeff
notimejeff
2 months ago

some in Monmouth mistakenly believe that it was part of England. It never was. The border was drawn up in the 1530’s and Monmouth and shire were always on the Welsh side. My guess is that some would prefer to be part of England. They should at least comply with the law and with their own history. Mshire will soon be getting another Welsh school, near Monmouth town, so there is demand. There are Welsh speakers in the Oswestry area which is in England. Borders are arbitrary.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 months ago

Again there’s a certain English extremist element in Monmouthshire council determined to cleanse the county of its original Welsh heritage. And they seem who wear their bigotry & anglicisation like a badge of honour.

And I find the lame excuses given and reasoning for their English-only signs policy on safety grounds absolutely rediculous. There should be a zero tolerance policy shown towards those who cynically and deliberately discriminate to prevent the erasing if our Welsh language heritage.

Gareth
Gareth
2 months ago

It must be horrid for the locals, wo never venture outside the county, as they only speak English, for fear of being in an accident, and the dread of having gone on holiday to Llangrannog with no alternate English name, are unable to converse with the emergency services. Never once having the pleasure of foreign travel, the culture, the food, the locals, and the language. It is the lack of wanting to expand ones horizons, and a little dose of ignorance that leads to this.

Doctor Trousers
2 months ago

There are better and more altruistic reasons for hoping that Monmouthshire council are forced to implement bilingual street signs, but honestly it just warms my heart to know how much it would p**s David TC Davies off.

hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago

At least Davies has made a serious effort to learn and use the language. Much as I dislike his party I think his efforts to learn the language are to be commended. Respect where there is merit.

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