Queen’s funeral shutdown shows councils could give staff St David’s Day off says councillor
Councils shutting down for the Queen’s funeral have shown that there’s no practical reason not to give staff St David’s Day off, a councillor has said.
In July Powys council voted against a St David’s Day Bank Holiday by 40 votes to 10, saying that it would put too much financial pressure on the local authority.
Plaid Cymru group leader, councillor Elwyn Vaughan, however said that the Queen’s funeral did not come with any statutory entitlement to time off for council workers, and if the council could shut down for that then they could also do so for St David’s day.
Elwyn Vaughan wrote a letter to Powys Council leaders saying that in the case of the Queen’s Funeral, “legally it isn’t a Bank Holiday at all”.
A notice from the UK Government confirmed that each employer needs to make their own decision on whether or not they will give staff the day off.
“This is a matter for discussion between individuals and their employer. There is no statutory entitlement to time off for bank holidays, but employers may include bank holidays as part of a worker’s leave entitlement,” it says.
Elwyn Vaughan added: “This makes interesting reading, because as you may recall I had a recent motion for Powys to allow St David’s day to be a given as a Bank Holiday to staff due to the fact that it is our national day. The excuse given to oppose it was in fact exactly the same reasons as contained in the above paragraph – yet seems likely to be allowed next week.
“Whilst naturally many will want to pay their respects to the Head of the Imperial State, It has to be accepted that there’s a huge divergence of views that exists and to many, our national day in Wales is equally as important.
“In view of this, I ask you to support my previous motion when represented and to allow St David’s day to be a national holiday as above. Failure to do so will merely confirm the views of many that there’s one rule for some and another for us. It would seem that the British State and the establishment can do whatever they want whilst treating simple requests for recognition by residents of the Celtic countries is treated with contempt.
“I trust that a progressive Powys wouldn’t want to be seen in that light.”
At a Powys County Council meeting on Friday, July 22 councillors debated a notice of motion by Cllr Elwyn Vaughan to give council staff St David’s the day off – as is the case at neighbouring Gwynedd Council.
He also wanted the council to write a letter to the UK Government asking them to devolved the power to create bank holidays for Wales to the Welsh Government, the Local Democracy Reporter Service said.
Patron saints in both Scotland and Northern Ireland are celebrated with bank holidays, after the power to do this was devolved to their respective parliament and assembly.
But at the meeting, an amendment put forward by Labour’s Cllr David Thomas trumped Cllr Vaughan’s proposal.
Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Thomas said: “I’m not opposed to workers having an extra bank holiday; however, council must expect that this year and probably next year we must face financial pressures arising from the current economic crisis.
“Inflation and interest rates are rising and hundreds of our residents are being touched by poverty – something we haven’t seen for 50 years.”
“What appears almost certain is that the UK is heading towards recession, despite that fact it’s still our duty to maintain essential services for our residents and do all we can to help them through this cost-of-living crisis.
“In setting a date of March 2023 it would mean that this authority would have to face significant extra costs at a time of serious financial challenges and hardships.
“This amendment simply removes a deadline and asks council to accept delegating the power to the Welsh Government to identify bank holidays in the future.”
“It does not take away the right of the motion sponsors to resubmit a request when the economic circumstances are more favourable.”
Council vice-chairman Cllr Beverley Baynham said: “I will be voting against the amendment as I worry that simply writing a letter to Westminster will fall on deaf years.
“We need to stand up and be proactive and lead the way to encourage the rest of the county and Wales to follow suit.”
Cabinet member for a Safer Powys, Cllr Richard Church wanted councillors to think of residents who work in the private sector and would not have a day off, as: “it would reflect badly on the council” and would not project a “good image” to the people of Powys.
He believed that there is a need to wait until St David’s Day can become a bank holiday for “all” in Wales.
A first vote on the amendment was approved by 43 votes for 10 against and one abstention.
This meant that it took over as the “substantive motion” and was approved by 44 for and 10 against.
Additional reporting by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
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