To consider and discuss the Annual Report and offer observations on matters contained in the Report.
To accept the report and note the observations received and approve the report to be published in line with the deadline of 30 June 2022.
The report was presented by the Language Adviser, and she briefly drew attention to the following main points:
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>The Language Adviser explained that this report had been created as a result of Section 44 of the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011, which made it a requirement for the Council after the end of the last financial year, before 30 June 2022.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>It was also noted that its purpose was to summarise and explain how the Council implemented and complied with the language standards.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>Pride was expressed that the report's figures showed that 99.1% of the Council's workforce had Welsh language skills. This figure included any person who had any type of Welsh language skills - whether they were fluent, partly-fluent or only understood a little bit of the language.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>It was expressed that 91% of all Council staff met the language designation of their post. The ability to work through the medium of Welsh was very important to the Council, and the Language Adviser was proud that this figure was high. Nevertheless, it was accepted that this figure could be increased. One way of attempting to do this at present was by offering Welsh language training to those staff who did not yet meet their language requirements, in order to help them develop the skills.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>It was noted that 909 jobs had been advertised on the Council's website in the last financial year where it was noted that Welsh language skills were essential for the role.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>It was explained that a number of developments had been completed over the year in order to ensure that bilingual services could be offered effectively:
<![if !supportLists]>o <![endif]>The Translation and Democracy Services teams had been busy over the year developing facilities in order to be able to hold multi-location meetings. Testing had been undertaken to ensure that the meetings could be held with people attending in the chambers and some people attending virtually, whilst also ensuring that the simultaneous translation service could continue without any obstacles.
<![if !supportLists]>o <![endif]>Trials had been undertaken with Council departments for a new self-assessment system. This system asked them to complete a self-assessment in order to see to what extent they complied with the language standards. This enabled the Corporate Support department to carry out a Corporate Self-assessment of the Council's compliance with the language standards, for submission to the Welsh Language Commissioner.
Members of the committee were given an opportunity to ask questions:
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>A member asked whether it was possible to look at the percentage of Council staff numbers who met the language designation level of their job over time, so that it could be compared with the last years.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>It was asked whether it would be possible to contact other agencies and bodies that collaborated with the Council when they suffered from linguistic failures. A member also asked if this could be done at a high level in order to ensure that the linguistic standards of our partners were sufficient.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>It was expressed that anecdotal evidence suggested that the standards of language skills increased as salary scales increased, thus this could create a social divide. Specific reference was made to the difference in skills between jobs in locations such as schools.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>It was felt that the ability to use the Welsh language in the workplace should be essential for every post, because in some circumstances the communication language changed from Welsh to English naturally if one (or more) of the staff did not speak Welsh.
In response to these points, the Language Adviser noted
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>That it was not possible to compare the numbers of staff who met the language designation of their post at present, since the data had not been gathered in the same method over the past years due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, it would be very interesting to compare these figures from year to year and see whether the figure increased or decreased. The Language Adviser was confident that this could be done from the next report onwards, because by then the data would have been gathered in the same method for two consecutive years. The Language Adviser was also confident that the relevant figure of 91% would increase this year as more Council staff completed a language self-assessment and as more staff attended linguistic training.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>That issues regarding the linguistic failures of our partners and other agencies were being raised by Council staff. Subject to the circumstances of the linguistic failures, officers would refer to them at meetings with the relevant people or would make direct contact with the agency/partner. Including such failures in a report such as this drew the matter to the attention of the Language Commissioner, who would then place pressure on the agency to improve its language standards. It was noted that it would be possible to put a protocol in place in order to establish a process of contacting partners effectively, should a linguistic failure occur.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>That there was an element of truth in the fact that the linguistic skills of staff increased as salary levels increased, particularly written and reading and comprehension skills. This could be explained to some degree by the requirements of those posts - i.e. a manager level post would require higher language skills due to the need to present reports to committees, etc. As the same need did not exist with lower-level posts, it was likely that the linguistic skills of the individuals were lower in general. However, the Language Adviser also drew attention to the fact that offering comprehensive training opportunities was a key part of the language designations project.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>That every job advertised on the Council's website noted that Welsh language skills were essential (and not desirable). No job was advertised with desirable language requirements. What varied was the specific level of skills that were designated for the post. The Language Adviser also referred to the challenges that were facing the Council in terms of recruitment. Also, it was noted that there was a clear expectation that any worker being appointed but who did not meet the language requirement of their post followed training and worked to reach those linguistic levels over time.
<![if !supportLists]>- <![endif]>To accept the report and to note the observations received and approve the report for publication by the closing date, 30 June 2022.