The Welsh Language Commissioner received complaints from members of the public about Monmouthshire County Council's decision to change their Street Numbering and Naming policy.

The Welsh Language Commissioner investigated whether the Council's decision-making process in amending their Street Numbering and Naming policy complied with the Welsh Language Standards. Under the Standards, in amending their policy, the Council needed to consider what effects, if any, the amendment would have on the opportunities to use the Welsh language, and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.

Gwenith Price, Deputy Commissioner for the Welsh Language, said: 'Following a complaint from a member of the public, I conducted an investigation under section 71 of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 to determine whether there had been a failure by Monmouthshire County Council to comply with Welsh language standards.'

The determination states that Monmouthshire County Council has not complied with the standards on the basis that:

  • the evidence does not show that the Council made a conscientious effort to identify and then consider the effects that its decision to amend the county’s Street Numbering and Naming policy would have on opportunities for persons to use the Welsh language, and on not treating the Welsh language less favourably than the English language
  • the evidence does not show that Monmouthshire County Council made a conscientious effort to consider how the County Street Numbering and Naming policy could be amended to so that the policy decision would have positive effects, or increased positive effects on opportunities for persons to use the Welsh language, and treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language
  • the evidence does not show that Monmouthshire County Council made a conscientious effort to consider how the County Street Numbering and Naming policy could be amended so that it did not have adverse effects, or so that it would have decreased adverse effects, on opportunities for persons to use the Welsh language, and treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.

Monmouthshire County Council's original policy stated that English-only names on road signs were translated into Welsh if a new sign was needed or replaced. That Welsh translation was not made the official name for the street however, as the Council noted that it would be a ‘very time consuming and costly procedure’.

The Council claimed it was amending the policy as having 'unofficial' Welsh translations on signs posed a public safety risk as these names would not be registered with the emergency services.

The Council also claimed that the policy had been amended to comply with the Code of Practice which provides practical advice to organisations on how to implement the standards. The Council has indicated that they have chosen to focus on ensuring that each new street name is in Welsh or bilingual in the County.

The Deputy Commissioner imposed 15 enforcement actions on the Council to ensure it complies with the standards when formulating or modifying policy in the future.

Gwenith Price, Deputy Commissioner for the Welsh Language, said, “The Welsh Language Measure 2011 (Wales) makes it compulsory for certain organisations to comply with Welsh language standards by considering the opportunities for people to use Welsh and to not treat the Welsh language less favourably than the English language.”

She added, “The Commissioner's main aim is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language. Organisations should not take decisions to do less for the Welsh language than they previously did, or to do the minimum where more progressive action in relation to the Welsh language was already being made.

“The suggestion repeatedly made by the Council that the policy had been amended to 'comply' with the Code of Practice is wrong and goes against the spirit of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and the role of the Welsh Language Commissioner.”

 

End