Friday, 24 July 2015

Welsh Language Standards - The Wrexham Debate!

Wrexham Council's efforts to bully the Language Commissioner into accepting their standards and rejecting others.

I then wrote the following letter to the Leader exposing the council's little games:

Dear Editor,

Cllr Hugh Jones's press release, regurgitated without challenge by the Leader, "Welsh Language red tape too expensive" (Leader, July 17) is deserving of critical comment. Communicating with the public in the delivery of services is fundamental to the core business of the council; in fact all of the £227 million budget is used in some way with delivery of services. In order to deliver those services we have to communicate in a language whether it is English, Welsh or bilingually. How Cllr Jones succeeds in disentangling the £700,000 for Welsh is beyond me and does he therefore agree that by a simple process of elimination that it costs £226 million plus to deliver services in English? It just goes to show that his report and article are "utter tosh" and have the sole intention of undermining the role of the Language Commissioner.

He goes on to argue that Wrecsam Council shouldn't provide services in Welsh because of low take up of those services, forgetting of course that by providing inferior services in Welsh like Wrecsam do, so you are forcing customers to use English services. This is called "suppressing demand" by failing to provide an adequate service in Welsh.

Basically, Wrecsam have made no effort for years to improve on their Welsh language services and now the Commissioner and the law have caught up with them and they're now making excuses, whilst at the same time conveniently forgetting that they have known for over 3 years that this day would come. The Commissioner cannot be blamed for Wrecsam Council behaving like ostriches burying their heads in the sand.


The Leader eventually published a heavily edited and sanitised version of the above letter, but even that prompted Hugh Jones to write the following defensive response which doesn't answer the points raised in my letter.

Councillor Arfon Jones is wrong in a number of respects (Wrexham Leader 22/07/15) He knows that the truth is that, I do not and have never, argued that Wrexham should not provide services in Welsh, indeed it is the opposite. As a Council we go to significant lengths to support the Welsh Language and Culture. Similarly it is a distortion of the truth to say that “Wrexham has made no efforts for years to improve its Welsh Language services”. This is an unwarranted criticism of our Welsh Language Officer and her team. As a Council we encourage and support and pay for members of staff to attend Welsh Language Courses. In our support for the Stiwt over many years we have encouraged and enabled the provision of a Welsh Cultural Centre. Through our Library and Museum services we promote and encourage Welsh Language and Culture and we have a Welsh Language Scheme that has been approved and inspected by the former Welsh Language Board. At the same time we have increased the provision for Welsh Language in our schools. 

It is equally a distortion of the truth to say that the “law have caught up with the local authority” we have not breached and do not intend to breach any law. 

In terms of the Standards which the Welsh Language Commissioner is seeking to apply to Wrexham, we have accepted 134 of the 164, the problem lies in the cost of implementing the remaining 30, which has been estimated to be £700,000 each and every year. At a time when the Welsh Government is asking us to cut £45 million from our budget over the next three years, we have a clear choice, Jobs and Services or the Standards. 

Cllr Jones avoids explaining which members of staff will lose their jobs, which services will be cut in order to pay for these 30 Standards. 

The implementation of 134 standards will hopefully lead to an increase in the numbers using our services which is something that I welcome and encourage. Indeed the Council would adopt all 164 Standards if the Welsh Government provides the funding. 

Cllr Jones I know is passionate about Equalities, we need to understand that we serve a Community where several languages are spoken, not only English and Welsh but also Polish and Portuguese for example all of which provide Wrexham with a broad and rich heritage. At a time when we have a policy of reshaping services and protecting the most vulnerable in our Community we have difficult choices to make, in doing so we will fulfil our responsibility to promote and enhance the Welsh language and Culture but we will do so in a way that does not damage our responsibilities to the whole of the County Borough. 

The truth is that Wrexham Council provides the Welsh speaking public with an inferior service in Welsh and thereby suppressing the demand and forcing them to use services in English. There is no doubt that Wrexham Council are treating the Welsh language less favourably than English and the Council need to be commission a 'Mystery Shopper' exercise, but they won't because that will show up which argument is correct.


Stewart Evesham, Llangollen said...

Why don't you people just accept there is NO DEMAND for welsh in WREXHAM. Wasting money with all this nonsense translation, welsh schools for which there is no demand and telling people they should visit Seven Stars and be insulted for speaking English.
The council's money is better spent on keeping the leisure centres, libraries, youth clubs and school music provision going. Things that give youngsters and the unemployed genuine life and job opportunities. Welsh is a dead language, it's being treated as a special novelty that's part of a movement turning Wales into a fantasy Ye Olde Worlde theme park. Move on please, your efforts are better turned towards real problems.

Bethan Williams said...

Noswaith dda Stewart!
I'm sorry you feel such negative thoughts towards my language. Are you from Llangollen originally or have you moved to beautiful Wales? May I ask you to take 7 minutes of your time to listen to what this young boy from New Zealand has to say? If you copy and paste this link it will take you straight to the clip.
I realise he is talking about the Maori language, however there are parallels with Welsh. I hope you have the courtesy to at least listen to what he has to say.

Bethan Williams said...

Eleri Vaughan Roberts said...

Well Stewart, they say that ignorance is bliss but in this case I'd go for the saying 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'!
There is a HUGE demand for Welsh in WRECSAM. Numbers in Welsh medium nurseries and schools have soared in recent years leading to situations like my own, where there is no accessible Welsh medium education provision for my daughters. The demand is so great that you could easily open another half dozen Welsh schools and fill the spaces immediately.
Being fluent in Welsh also gives you a huge advantage when applying for jobs in Wales, especially if you are applying for work in the public sector. I have found that being a Welsh speaker has helped me when applying for jobs and being bilingual has given me a different mindset and skillset to offer employers.
Have you ever personally visited the Saith Seren (Seven Stars) and been insulted? I would sincerely hope this was not the case and would be suprised if it were since most non Welsh speaking people I know have commented on how friendly the people are there. However, if you were insulted, please take the opportunity to visit again before making any rash judgements. I'm sure you would quickly see how wrong you were to judge the role of the Saith Seren.
In the meantime I think that you're the one who needs to step out of your Olde Worlde and learn more about the relevance and importance of this LIVING language, especially since you're living in its native country!

Nijel Ffaraj said...

Is Stewart real or is he just the usual run of the mill ignorant, bigoted and intolerant individual usually found on Britain First or EDL Twitter timelines. He or she has clearly got lost!

Nijel Ffaraj said...

Helo Stewart, thought you'd like to read this

Stewart Evesham said...

To answer your question no I am not originally from Llangollen and no I didn't move there from England, I previously lived near Beaumaris and yes I did have to sit through Welsh at junior school, which was the last time I spoke it.
Your argument falls down completely with this sentence:
"Being fluent in Welsh also gives you a huge advantage when applying for jobs in Wales, especially if you are applying for work in the public sector." - Public sector jobs are being reduced and privatised. Jobs in Wales are low paying and few and far between, thanks to many short-sighted London, WAG decisions and parochial attitudes.

Plaid Whitegate said...

There's obviously a great deal of personal animosity towards the Welsh language that you seem to want to vent, Stewart.
That doesn't change the fact that people want to speak it and pass it on to their children. That doesn't mean wanting to live in the past - quite the opposite, we want to be able to do everything bilingually in the future.
If you don't, that's fine. But don't hate us for it and don't blame us for leisure centres and libraries closing. It's a lazy argument.
They are being closed by the same market forces and ideologically driven politicians that did so much damage to the Welsh language over the years.
Despite being banned, treated as a second class language for centuries and still seen - by some - as something that should be killed off, people still want to speak Welsh. That's why Welsh-medium schools are full, new businesses are offering a Welsh-medium service and there's a general goodwill towards the language.
That goodwill is being undermined by a council that is actively seeking to play the Welsh language against other services. Is a Welsh-medium school that successfully teaches children to become fluent two languages less deserving of an English-medium school that does the same in one language?
Finally, as someone who helped set up Saith Seren with the donations from hundreds of ordinary people rather than public funding, I take great exception to your slur against our cooperative venture. It has no basis as you well know but then nothing you said was based on fact. It was just blind prejudice.