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Senior councillor says pride in Welsh needed as new language strategy

PEOPLE need to regain pride in the Welsh language to boost its use in Carmarthenshire, a senior councillor said.

Cllr Glynog Davies said more than 90% of people in his home town of Brynaman and the surrounding area spoke Welsh in 1971, compared to just under 60% in 2021.

“It (Welsh) was the language of the street, the language of the chapel, the pub, the school yard, the rugby field,” said the cabinet member for education and Welsh language.

“I have seen the change taking place – gradually, first of all – now it’s rapidly taking place.”

Cllr Davies, speaking at a cabinet meeting, said the decline was disappointing. According to the 2021 census, the percentage of Welsh speakers in Carmarthenshire was 39.9%, down from 43.9% a decade previously. It was the largest percentage drop of any local authority in the country.

Cabinet members have now approved a new five-year Welsh language strategy. Its four main aims are to increase the number of Welsh speakers, engender pride, use and confidence in the language among residents, make Welsh the norm in the workplace, and promote thriving Welsh-speaking communities.

Cllr Davies said: “We must get pride back into the language, creating communities which will once again be proud to say the Welsh language is the language of the majority.”

The new strategy said Carmarthenshire had experienced an influx of older people from outside Wales and that housing affordability was an issue for young people in the county – both factors affecting the use of Welsh and both outside the council’s control.

The strategy will develop a set of actions and a way of measuring their impact. The report before cabinet contained an analysis of measures introduced under the council’s previous five-year strategy, with good progress in some areas and a lack of progress in others.

Council leader Darren Price said the partnership of a Welsh language forum was central to the new strategy. “The clear message from us as a cabinet is that we are very keen to work with anybody who wants to see the language flourish in the county,” he said.

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Cabinet also approved a policy which will require organisations applying for grant funding to consider the impact that awarding a grant would have on residents’ use of Welsh, with a particular onus on applications by large organisations. Advice and support will be offered.

The Welsh Government wants the number of Welsh speakers to rise to one million by 2050.

Not all surveys paint of picture of declining Welsh in Carmarthenshire though. The cabinet report said an annual population survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that the percentage of Welsh speakers had actually risen in Carmarthenshire between 2011 and 2021 from 47.2% to 52.5%.