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Powys council propose cuts to Welsh language translation service

WELSH language translation services at Powys County Council (PCC) face an extra days delay due to proposed cuts in the 2021/22 budget,

At a meeting of the Economy, Residents, Communities and Governance scrutiny committee on Thursday, January 28, councillors were told that this was part of £116,000 savings proposed by the Transformation and Communication Service.

Last week PCC’s Independent/Conservative Cabinet agreed to a draft budget that proposed a 3.9 per cent increase in Council Tax and £11.828 million that needs to be cut or saved in 2021/22.

Head of Transformation and Communication, Emma Palmer explained:

“We may see a hit on our performance, instead of a turnaround of five days in our Welsh translation, we may have to accept it will be in six days.

“In this quarter we will roll out Microsoft Translate, and do a communication campaign internally, so that staff can do their own translation using the technology available for us.”

The Welsh Parliament/Senedd worked with Microsoft in 2013/14 to include Welsh in its list of languages that can be translated by the software.

Ms Palmer added: “English to Welsh translation is thought to be 94 per cent accurate.”

This would allow the  Welsh language translators to focus on “external communication and key documents”.

Cllr Gareth Jones, (Llanfair Caereinion – Independent), said: “It does concern me on the level of cuts proposed that the level of efficiency and accuracy may be affected.”

Cllr Jones asked if documents that are made public would have the Welsh proofread?

He also wondered if the extra day in the translation of internal documents would have a knock-on effect on the work of other departments?

Ms Palmer explained that a post in the translation team would now be deleted.

Ms Palmer said: “There has been a vacancy for a year and we were keeping that money in case we needed to go to external translators, we haven’t needed to use that.

“The turnaround performance is exceptional, anything external would go through the human translators, not the computers.

“We don’t want to be in a position where the information we push out is inaccurate or can be misinterpreted, I’m very mindful of that.”

Ms Palmer also explained that she used Microsoft Translate on emails she received in Welsh.

Instead of passing those on to translators, she can now click a button “which does the translation sufficiently for me to understand the email”.

The draft budget will be decided at a council meeting later this month.

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