IT WOULD be impossible for Newport council to deliver telephone services equally in Welsh and English, a council document has claimed.
The authority has made the comments in a response, yet to be signed off by cabinet, to the Welsh Language Commissioner’s investigation into proposed standards for the language in councils.
The authority has said that a number of the standards wouldn’t be reasonable or proportionate – including nine that cover how telephone calls are handled.
These include that incoming calls must be dealt with in Welsh by the switchboard when the service is open, and says that outgoing phone calls must be conducted in Welsh where the language preference of the person concerned has been recorded that they want to receive such calls.
But Newport council says it wouldn’t be reasonable or proportionate for those standards to be applied to the authority.
“Whilst Newport City Council will make every effort to meet this standard current staff Welsh language skills would make it impossible to deliver an equal offer in Welsh and English,” the response says.
“The prospects to rectify this situation are very limited given the demographics of our travel to work area and the current financial situation which significantly limits the number of external vacancies.”
The response does say that proposed standards relating to helplines and call centres – including that incoming calls to helplines and call centres must be dealt with in Welsh when the service is open – would be reasonable and proportionate.
But it is believed that the organisation wouldn’t be able to currently provide automated telephone response systems completely in Welsh.
Proposals for personal meetings to be conducted in Welsh where requested were also considered unreasonable, as was a standard that would require public meetings to be simultaneously translated.
Asked for information on any assessment of current opportunities available to use the Welsh language, the authority says: “We have not undertaken analysis of the current opportunities to use the language either within the organisation or across Newport.”
The Welsh Language Commissioner is expected to report back on the standards to Welsh ministers in May with recommendations on how the standards should apply to each public body.
It would then be up to the Assembly to pass draft regulations over the issue.
Senior councillors in Newport council’s cabinet will vote on whether the response should be submitted to the investigation when they meet today.
UPDATE 12.20pm: Newport council's Labour cabinet agreed the proposed consultation response this morning.
The response was passed with little discussion - however Cllr Ray Truman, deputy leader, expressed concernes over how many of the standards would come into fruition, and over their practicality and financial implications.