AT LEAST three Gwent councils have expressed concerns over proposals for Welsh to appear first on bilingual road signs.
But, following a consultation, Welsh language commissioner Meri Huws is sticking to a list of proposed Welsh language standards for local authorities which cover websites, telephone services, public meetings and other council business.
Newport council had previously said it would be impossible to deliver telephone services equally in Welsh and English, citing the current financial situation and the region’s demographics..
It will be up to the National Assembly to pass the standards, but once passed, they would act as a menu for the commissioner to pick and choose which would legally apply to which authority.
Standards on road signs would likely only apply to new, replacement or temporary signs.
According to a report on the commissioner’s investigation into proposed standards, 12 out of 22 authorities said it would be unreasonable and disproportionate for them to comply with Welsh first on road signs.
Despite an Argus request yesterday, the commissioners’ office didn’t identify the 12. It has been established they include Newport, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent.
“The reasons noted for this included the fact there would be cost implications in having to change all the signs, as well as considering the demography of the areas they served,” the report on the investigation said.
The commissioner stuck by the standard, but clarified the Welsh text must be positioned so as to be read first on any new, replacement or temporary signs.
A Newport council spokeswoman said: “Data from the 2011 Census showed only 6.3 per cent of Newport’s population could write, read and speak Welsh.” She added that more than 100 languages were spoken in the city.
“Newport City Council feels it would be disproportionate for Welsh to appear first on signage as it would not meet the needs of the vast majority of residents.”
Caerphilly council said it did not support any standard that would enforce either language over the other.
A Monmouthshire spokesman said they were fully in support of bilingual signs, but believe the order of Welsh and English should be a matter for local councils.