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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 14 December, 2015

Report of the Leader

Welsh Language Standards - Compliance Notice for the Council

Purpose of the Report

  1. To inform Cabinet of the compliance notice received in respect of Welsh Language Standards for the Council and to seek approval of the actions necessary as a consequence.

Recommendations

  1. That Cabinet note the Welsh Language Standards compliance notice received for the Council from the Welsh Language Commissioner.
  2. That Cabinet approve the actions necessary as a consequence.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To ensure that Cabinet are aware of the statutory compliance notice.
  2. To enable the Council to discharge its responsibilities in respect of the compliance notice.

 

Background

  1. The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 makes provision for the specification of standards of conduct in relation to the Welsh language. These replace the Welsh language schemes provided for by the Welsh Language Act 1993. The 2011 Measure enables Welsh Ministers to specify standards by authorising the Welsh Language Commissioner to issue a "compliance notice" to those organisations to which the Measure applies. Draft compliance notices were issued to all Councils earlier in 2015; after considering responses, the Commissioner issued final compliance notices on 30 September 2015.
  2. The compliance notice for the Vale of Glamorgan Council is attached at Appendix A. It relates to standards in the following classes of activity: Service Delivery, Policy Making, Operational, Promotional and Record Keeping. A number of standards are listed under each class, with the requirement that they are achieved by the Council either by 30 March 2016 or 30 September 2016.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. There is no doubt that conforming in full with the requirements of the compliance notice will be a significant challenge for the Council. A number of actions will need to be taken such as gathering the information regarding language preferences of customers and making it easier for Welsh speakers to deal with the Council in Welsh where that is their wish. There is potentially a substantial rise in the need for translation, whether in written form or as instantaneous translation in meetings, and that of course will bring additional costs. It is difficult to estimate these costs because the demand cannot yet be foreseen.
  2. It is important to recognise that the Council is already implementing a Welsh Language Scheme that has been in force and in development for a number of years. We have in place a bilingual Contact Centre in C1V; Civic Centre and Dock Office reception areas have Welsh speaking cover; correspondence is conducted in Welsh where that is the customer's wish; we have a Welsh language website; many documents are already published bilingually; and signage is generally bilingual.
  3. Nevertheless, the compliance notice does extend the requirements considerably, and the Council will need to be increasingly proactive if it is to comply with the timescales set down, which are onerous. For these reasons it would be sensible to prioritise our actions according to what Welsh speakers would find most beneficial when dealing with the Council. Research conducted recently among Welsh speakers by the Welsh Language Commissioner has demonstrated that the following service areas are the most valued when delivered in Welsh: reception areas, phone calls, visits in person, website and forms.
  4. It is proposed therefore that these areas are given priority over the coming months. As these are developed, other matters will be considered and progressed as appropriate. As part of our approach to the standards the Council will need to consider such issues as awareness training for elected members and staff, and briefings for staff on how to implement the standards. A corporate working group involving all Directorates has already been set up to progress the matter.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. It is not yet possible to cost accurately the implications of the Standards compliance notice since it will depend to a large extent on the demand for Welsh language services. Nevertheless, there seems little doubt that translation costs will rise significantly. A cost pressure estimate of £100,000 has been submitted for consideration as part of the 2016/17 budget process. It is likely that any additional translation work will be commissioned from external sources rather than by employing additional translation staff.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. One of the Wellbeing Goals included in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is "a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language". The standards are intended to contribute to that goal, integral to the achievement of Sustainable Development.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Council is bound by the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011, according to which the Welsh Language Commissioner can require certain standards to be put in place by organisations affected by the legislation. Acting in accordance with the Commissioner's compliance notice is a statutory duty for the Council.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no Crime and Disorder implications.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The intention of the standards is to promote the use of Welsh by the organisations to which they apply.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. Complying with the Welsh language standards will be included in the revised Corporate Plan for 2016-20, currently in preparation.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Welsh Language Standards compliance notice for the Vale of Glamorgan Council (Appendix A)

Contact Officer

Huw Isaac - Head of Performance and Development

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Managing Director