Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

‘Weakness’ of Welsh language rights exposed as council delivers English-only newsletter to residents

15 Nov 2023 4 minute read
The council leaflet included a glowing review of a performance by bilingual singer Bronwen Lewis (Credit: Promo pic)

Martin Shipton

Campaigners have condemned the weakness of language rights legislation in Wales after a council was lawfully able to distribute an eight-page newsletter to residents that contains not a word of Welsh.

Ironically, the newsletter produced by Blaenavon Town Council contained a glowing report of a concert given by the bilingual singer Bronwen Lewis, who packed out the local workmen’s hall in September.

Blaenavon is a town in Torfaen in south east Wales situated north of Pontypool. In 2000, Unesco made Blaenavon and its industrial landscape a World Heritage Site in recognition of the role the area played as the world’s major producer of iron and coal in the 19th century.

The town and surrounding areas have a range of heritage and leisure activities, including Big Pit National Coal Museum, where visitors can explore the workings of the former Blaenavon Colliery and mine.

The town council delivered 3,000 copies to residents, including Mihangel ap-Williams, a former director of the pro-independence group Yes Cymru.

He contacted Nation.Cymru to ask us whether the council was acting within the law by distributing the English-only publication.

We sought clarification from the Welsh Language Commissioner’s office, where a spokesman told us that the town council wasn’t breaking the law. While Wales’ 22 unitary local authorities have to make provision for Welsh speakers, that doesn’t apply to town and community councils. Some do so voluntarily, but others operate entirely in English and don’t provide any Welsh language service.

‘Funny’

Mr ap-Williams said: “Having received the newsletter through the door and studying Welsh. I found it funny that there is no Welsh language content at all – even though there is a Welsh folk singer mentioned and the hall looks full in the photograph.”

Siân Howys, Chair of the Welsh Language Rights Group of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, is concerned that the Welsh Language Measure 2011’s failure to ensure that town and community councils function bilingually forms part of a broader pattern of the Measure’s deficiencies.

She told us:”It feels by now as if the frailties of the Welsh Language Measure are highlighted week after week. Only last Thursday, HSBC announced that it was bringing its Welsh Language Helpline to an end. In addition, A number of our members expect to face court cases simply because they wish to use Welsh in private car parks. The fact that there is no legal right for Welsh speakers to receive correspondence from town and community councils is yet another blow.

“The legislation that established rights for the people of Wales to use, see and hear Welsh is currently 12 years out of date, and is failing on every front. If it is not revised and strengthened, it is inevitable that Welsh will lose more ground and people’s rights fall further behind.”

Effectiveness

Kevin Warren, the chief officer at Blaenavon Town Council, said: “Members of the council did consider whether the newsletter should be produced in both English and Welsh, but decided against doing so on the grounds of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

“The council’s spending is scrutinised by the Wales Audit Office and members are aware that they have to spend money wisely. There is no legal obligation to translate documents under the Welsh Language Measure 2011 and members believe it would be difficult to justify, given that the proportion of Welsh speakers in the town is small.

“The council will continue to decide whether it is worth spending extra money for Welsh language content. Obviously there would be additional costs because of the translation and the need for larger newsletters. If members decided to publish in both languages in the future, the cost would have to be met by reallocating funds from elsewhere in the council’s budget.”

Extending language duties to town and community councils would be a decision for the Welsh Government, which so far has shown no inclination to do so.

Blaenavon forms part of Torfaen. In 2022 17.6% of Torfaen’s residents said they could speak Welsh.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
25 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
karl
karl
6 months ago

Transport for Wales doesn’t use Welsh anymore on their refurbished trains. Its becoming very common place.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
6 months ago
Reply to  karl

Yet the travel information boards in Craven Arms are bilingual.

simon m hughes
simon m hughes
6 months ago

Why don’t councils throughout Wales and other businesses write, email or txt their locality to understand those citizens who would enjoy the welsh dialect and those who prefer just English so that they have their requirements satisfied and it would save on duplication of the same information. It would also cut down on paper waste both saving the environment and essential local funding? It would be interesting to have the view of both Mr Drakeford and Mr Waters as they are interested in both the saving of natural resources from our environment and saving money?

Stephen
Stephen
6 months ago
Reply to  simon m hughes

This makes total common sense, I’ve been campaigning for it for years, but the dictatorships won’t allow it. Maybe saving the environment and the trees will force their hand eventually. The Welsh language hard liners will be worried that through a public request for information, will identify that only a smidgen of the Welsh population actually want to correspond in Welsh.

Last edited 6 months ago by Stephen
Joc
Joc
6 months ago
Reply to  simon m hughes

Just have Cymraeg. Google translate if you want know more.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  simon m hughes

Cymraeg is not a dialect, it’s a language. It’s also the national language and most local authorities do canvas their constituents as their language preferences, or at the very least include a statement explaining that constituents are able to state a language preference.

Nia James
Nia James
6 months ago
Reply to  simon m hughes

Welsh is not a dialect, it is a language (approximately 1500 years older than English).

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
6 months ago

There is a risk here of doing more harm than good just to prove a point. The council in question, which I suspects lacks the knowledge and resources to produce coherent Welsh writing, might simply not produce the newsletter at all, and the ability to use it to promote events that are bilingual or entirely in Welsh would be lost.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Thomas

Honestly, your comment takes the biscuit for weak excuses. Nowhere in Wales should be producing information for the public that isn’t bilingual. Organisations that are trying to pull a fast one with arguments about ability or resources are just using the argument to bolster their prejudice against Cymraeg. Though expenditure is audited, I think it would be extremely unlikely that the cost of translating this kind of content, for public consumption would be questioned. As someone pointed out, 17.6% of Blaenau Gwent’s population say they can speak Welsh, that’s just under the national average, so no real shortage of Welsh… Read more »

Bob
Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Blaenavon is not in Blaenau Gwent and living for 20 plus years within Blaenau Gwent I have never heard one person speak Welsh as their daily language.

Mark Owen
Mark Owen
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Thomas

Then that town council fails in it’s precept planning, future wellbeing act and much more .It fails the community it susposed to serve

Geraint
Geraint
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Thomas

Helo Blod is a free service that translates 500 words and proof reads a 1,000 words a month for organisations like community councils. With good layout taking into account not having to repeat graphics and photos I would think that a substantial amount of this newsletter could be produced bilingually with very little extra cost if the will was there was a will to do it.

Ann
Ann
6 months ago

The town council for my area has a number of incorrect bilingual signs. I have complained and tried to correct them using a marker pen. I have volunteered to do the translations for them. Zero response.

Mark Owen
Mark Owen
6 months ago
Reply to  Ann

Go to the next meeting and make a public representation , by law you are allowed 10 minutes to make such a representation , inform
the clerk on arrival, and be amazed by town councilliors efforts to address issues such as that when faced directly with the public.

Mathew Northcote
Mathew Northcote
6 months ago

Welsh place names should be up before English because Welsh is the natural language of Wales like French in France. If people don’t like it you can always learn Welsh or if that doesn’t work you could move to England so you can speak as much English as you want.lol

Last edited 6 months ago by Mathew Northcote
Cymro Penperllenni
Cymro Penperllenni
6 months ago

If the Council did not want to translate all of the leaflet then surely at least the part regarding the Welsh folk singer. The Welsh Language Commissioner needs to ensure that Town and Community Councils have to legally publish their adoption of the Welsh Language Standards. The Welsh Language,(Wales) Measure 2011 has been in for over a decade so no excuses. The number of Welsh Language speakers in Blaenafon and the cost of translation are the also not good enough excuses. Why should Welsh speakers be treated as second class citizens in Wales. Hwyl am y tro.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
6 months ago

It would seem that much of the enforcement of the language legislation is in abeyance. Whilst it seems to me a complete dereliction of duty on the part of those who framed the Welsh Language Measure 2011 to not include town and community councils within its scope, there are still other organisations that have a statutory obligation to provide, not just a bilingual service but also a bilingual corporate identity but yet are allowed to get away with not doing this, despite having had such in the past, and who still have a requirement to present a bilingual corporate identity.… Read more »

Meic Lewis
Meic Lewis
6 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

These Councils have tiny budgets. The Welsh standard requires a level of translation that can only be delivered by degree qualified expert translators and this means there’s a not insignificant cost. Yn anffodus mae Cymraeg rhai pobl jyst ddim yn digon o berffaith am yr heddlu iaith purdebwyr

Mark Owen
Mark Owen
6 months ago
Reply to  Meic Lewis

Poor fiscal planning then especially in relation to budgeting and precept setting, also they could have applied section 137 funding for the publication to be available in Welsh

Steven
Steven
6 months ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

In many cases Welsh isn’t provided as translators are not avaliable or the cost is prohibitive. Very long way from racism.

Frank
Frank
6 months ago

Shouldn’t Blaenavon be Blaenafon or Blaen Afon? There is no ‘v’ in the Welsh alphabet. I wish people would stop leaning towards the Anglicised version of everything and start preserving the Welsh correct version.

Nigel Bull
Nigel Bull
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Perhaps the poorest area of Wales has better things to spend their money on. Walsh culture in Chepstow, Chester, Caernarvon and Carmarthen is very different. Why do fundamentalists force their version on others? I would prefer the resources that are spread so thin in an area so poor be spent on things that show an economic return. There are areas of Wales that are dominated by the Welsh Language like education in Carmarthen which fundamentalists applaud. Then when another area has a polar opposite view, it is a crime. Trying to force opinions on the WL on others is the… Read more »

Frank
Frank
6 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Bull

Sorry, what are you going on about? My comment has nothing at all to do with what you are saying. Perhaps you meant to reply to someone else. What I said would cost absolutely nothing at all.

Mark Owen
Mark Owen
6 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Bull

Strange choice of words “fundamentalists” to describe good people who want to see the Welsh Language prosper and be available to all esp as town council remit does not extend to economic return, that is a prerogative of the Welsh Government , town councils are community councils which only exist to manage any assets they hold for the community, and endeavour to contribute to the well being of the community, perhaps the council in question would have been more wise to issue an electronic newsletter via social media instead if costs were the issue rather than an expensive print of… Read more »

Mark Owen
Mark Owen
6 months ago

falch o ddatgan fod gan Gyngor Dinas Bangor bolisi iaith Gymraeg ar gyfer pob cyfathrebiad, gan gynnwys gwasanaethau cyfieithu ar gyfer cyfarfodydd, pwyllgorau.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.