Mumbles community councillor claims he was made a scapegoat in Welsh language row
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
A Mumbles community councillor at the centre of a Welsh language row said he was aggrieved about being removed from one of his roles and that he felt let down by some of his Labour colleagues.
Cllr Rob Marshall has now submitted a complaint to the community council and called on its chairwoman to resign her position.
He also said he was worried about the impact of the language row on his career as a musician and music teacher. “It’s absolutely having an effect on it,” he said.
The community council said it had received a complaint from a councillor and that it was inappropriate to comment further at this stage.
On August 16 councillors voted in favour of removing Cllr Marshall as co-chairman of the culture, tourism and communications committee and said he should send local primary school YGG Llwynderw a written apology.
The school had complained to the council on the grounds of Welsh language and culture exclusion after it was told by Cllr Marshall that Welsh couldn’t be sung by a children’s choir at an event called Mumbles Fest 2022.
Cllr Marshall, who organised the festival and had contacted local primary schools five weeks beforehand to say a children’s choir was going to be put together, told the school that including Welsh would be hard for children from the other schools and that a tight festival schedule meant additional songs couldn’t be included.
Further emails between the school, which suggested a verse or chorus to be sung in Welsh, and the Labour councillor ended with the latter saying the aim was to unite the schools rather than have one stand out. He added that people in the Mumbles area were “take it or leave it about the Welsh language”. He also said he was a proud Welshman and was all for promoting the language.
The complaint from the school, which declined to take part in Mumbles Fest, was also on the grounds of the correspondence from and conduct of Cllr Marshall, internal governance and scrutiny mechanisms of the community council, and inappropriate lyrical content regarding one of the three songs.
Since the meeting, Cllr Marshall has claimed that he was made “a scapegoat” and that the community council had not followed proper procedure in the way it dealt with the complaint and also the August 16 meeting, when he was offered five minutes to speak.
He also made allegations about a virtual meeting he said took place among some councillors, but not him, on August 15 – the day before the public meeting. He felt he should be reinstated as co-chairman culture, tourism and communications committee.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he was considering raising a complaint with external bodies, and added that he had received more support from Conservative councillors since the row broke out than Labour ones.
Asked if he had considered his position as a councillor, which he has held since 2017, Cllr Marshall said: “Of course I have. I thought, ‘Is it worth all the mental strain?’ But I’m not going to let other people have that power over me.”
He teaches music at a Welsh language comprehensive school and primary school in Swansea and said he taught some “delightful” pupils there, but he added: “I’m worried about whether there’ll be a job for me to go back to.”
Cllr Marshall also said he was worried about the effect of the language row on his musical work outside of teaching. He said he had competed in the Eisteddfod all his life, performed on S4C programmes including Heno, and staged compositions of Gower-born Welsh artist Sir Karl Jenkins.
Referring to the emails between him and YGG Llwynderw, which were included in the August 16 meeting agenda, he said: “I chose bad words in haste. What I was probably trying to say was that Mumbles is a more English-speaking community.
“I’m very upset that the school was upset over this. That was not my intention. I am not malicious.”
He said he hadn’t referred the emails from the school to committee colleagues due to time pressures organising the festival. “I was under the impression that I had to get on with it,” said the 51-year-old.
Nine councillors voted to remove him from his co-chairman committee role, one voted against, and two abstained.
Councillors also voted in favour of other recommendations, including that a task and finish group was set up to review the community council’s Welsh language provision and ensure it met legislative obligations.
In response to the complaint and claims made by Cllr Marshall, the community council said the complaint was being dealt with through its “local resolution protocol”, which was in line with that of One Voice Wales – the principal organisation for community and town councils.
The council added: “It is therefore not appropriate to comment until that process has been concluded.”
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