BLAENAU Gwent council has made “significant progress” to improve Welsh language services councillors have been told.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny committee last month councillors were told of the action plan that had been put in place in response to breaches of the Welsh language measure.

Legal standards are set in the Welsh Language Measure 2011 and the aim is to ensure that public bodies such as Blaenau Gwent council are complying with its legal duty to treat Welsh “no less favourably” than English.

In November 2021 complaints were made that Blaenau Gwent was not providing a Welsh language telephone service.

In April 2022, the council provided an initial response to the commissioner’s investigation, which in turn raised further compliance concerns.

This was with regard to promoting services, assessing the language skills of staff, providing training opportunities and assessing the language needs of job posts.

At the meeting, policy and partnerships service manager Andrew Parker told councillors that the work in response to all the problems was now essentially “completed” and that a final report had been submitted to the Welsh language commissioner Efa Gruffydd Jones.

Mr Parker said: “Technically all actions are complete.”

He explained that the council was waiting for an online platform to provide Welsh language courses for staff to go live and that this is why this element of work was coloured amber in the action plan.

Mr Parker said: “We’ve informed the commissioner as all the work has been done and we’re just waiting for the button to be pushed to get it across the line.”

On telephony issues the council Mr Parker said: “We’ve made significant progress there’s a lot more language ability and confidence in relation for people to take that forward.”

Mr Parker said: “The same with training there’s been a significant amount of preparation work done and communication across staff so that they know the range of options available to improve language skills from early introduction courses and further.

He added that the authority now “knows” who has those skills and at what level in the council and managers were being encouraged to think about improving the Welsh language skill sets of their teams.

Turning to the final problem of recruitment, Mr Parker said: “We’ve made significant progress in improving our procedures and where Welsh is required in the recruitment process.

Mr Parker told councillors this was to make sure people trying for jobs at the council understood that the Welsh language requirement could be subject to a test, depending on the type of job it is.

Mr Parker said: “That’s moved us towards being compliant with the Welsh language standard.”

The next step will be that the commissioner notes the final progress report on the action plan.

Mr Parker said: “The feedback we’ve had so far is that they are satisfied and happy with what we’ve done and complimented us on our action plan.”

Committee chairwoman, Cllr Joanna Wilkins said: “It’s really good to hear the excellent work.

“The things you have brought out have been amazing especially about identifying good practice and taking that through regardless of whether it’s an action plan or not but because it’s the correct thing to do and the right thing for our organisation.”

Cllr Tommy Smith said: “We’re saying as a council’ we’re meeting the requirements, but we have to have acknowledgement back from the commissioner.”

Mr Parker added that the commissioners’ comments would be brought to the committee’s attention at a future meeting.

Councillors noted the report which is set to go before a meeting of the Cabinet in June.