AT least three other councils should follow the lead of Gwynedd in using Welsh as their official language of administration.
That’s the view of a pressure group who used this week’s National Eisteddfod to state their aim of the language being given more prominence within town halls from Monmouthshire to Anglesey.
Dyfodol i’r Iaith are calling for at least three other authorities, namely Anglesey, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, to use more Welsh within the corridors of power – a move they believe would “place real economic worth” in the language.
However, they are also calling on other authorities where the language is not as strong, to promote Welsh as a working language and emphasise it as a valuable skill.
The leader of Gwynedd Council, speaking during a discussion on the National Eisteddfod Maes on Wednesday (Aug 7), said that Gwynedd was “leading the way” in its use of Welsh – which is already the main internal language.
Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn added that he and his fellow councillors were in a “fortunate position”, having inherited a strong Welsh ethos from the old Gwynedd Council which existed before the last local government reorganisation in 1996.
“We started with somewhat of a clean slate, but back then the translators were churning approximately 80% of material from English to Welsh, whereas now they are having to translate almost no documents at all into Welsh as the officers are using the language almost exclusively,” said Cllr Siencyn.
“That goes to show how the internal administration has been normalised. It’s almost unheard of for an officer to publish an internal report in English.”
He added that, while some members of staff were lacking in confidence in regards to their Welsh language abilities, they were offered training to improve their oral and written skills.
Speaking during the week-long cultural festival, which is being held in Llanrwst, Cllr Siencyn said: “We have approximately 6,000 staff but, if the workforce is used to using the Welsh language confidently, that can integrate into wider society and normalise its use on a wider basis.
“Over 90% of our primary school pupils are fluent Welsh speakers, but the challenge in some areas is to encourage them to continue using it on a social basis after moving on to secondary school.”
Neighbouring Anglesey Council has already committed to gradually introducing Welsh as the main internal language on a department by department basis, while continuing to maintain a bilingual presence when dealing with the public.
Ceredigion has also come under pressure by language groups to follow a similar path, but a leading Carmarthenshire councillor confirmed that they were following Gwynedd and Anglesey’s lead.
“If we take Gwynedd as a lead, it’s fair to say that we and other councils are trying to catch up,” said Cllr Peter Hughes-Griffiths, adding that both “political power and to possess the will to make changes” were necessary in order to kick-start any change.
He noted further positive moves in the recent appointment of a Welsh speaking chief executive, Wendy Walters, with a recent audit revealing that almost half of staff were able to communicate in the language.
“Our next task will be to assess if any departments are ready to administrate internally in the Welsh language,” concluded the Plaid Cymru councillor.
“It happens to a large degree in some already, of course, but the next step will be to decide if any are ready for this to become official.
“At the end of the day, without getting too political, if we won’t do this then no-one will.”