Assurances over leisure company’s Welsh language policy
The new body responsible for Gwynedd’s leisure centres will not fall back on its commitment to the Welsh language, councillors have been told.
Until April 2019, Gwynedd Council operated 12 leisure centres at a cost of almost £5m a year to the taxpayer.
To prop up the service, the authority provided a subsidy to the tune of almost £1.9m, with around £3.1m being generated through admission and membership fees.
The setting up of the arm’s length company, Byw’n Iach, (Living Healthily) was hoped to achieve savings of around £585,000 a year thanks to a changed tax status, while not having an adverse effect on leisure provision nor staff.
But addressing members of Gwynedd Council’s language committee, its managing director reassured councillors that the importance of the emphasis on Welsh would remain as strong as the authority’s own language policies.
Amanda Davies went on to say that the reaction so far had been “overwhelmingly positive” since its launch on April 1, having held Welsh language refresher sessions for those who were not confident using it on a daily basis.
She did concede, however, that there had been “particular challenges” in Meirionnydd in terms of being able to recruit Welsh speakers.
“Perhaps 20 years ago it would have been unthinkable, but we do have issues recruiting Welsh speakers in Meirionnydd.
“We also have staff we have inherited (from Gwynedd Council) which did not meet the language requirements.”
She added, however, that the internal training sessions had been warmly welcomed by staff who are now capable of providing bilingual sessions as a result.
The company’s own policy notes that centre users should be able to use the language of their choosing with Welsh being the main administrative language – mirroring that of Gwynedd Council itself.
This, Amanda Davies added, meant that the company was “unique” in its language provision.
The 12 leisure centres now operated by Byw’n Iach are Bala, Bangor, Arfon Leisure and Tennis Centre, two in Caernarfon, Porthmadog, Tywyn, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Pwllheli, Dolgellau, Barmouth, Bethesda and Penygroes.
When the decision was made in 2017, the authority warned that carrying on with the status quo would mean the authority would have “little option but to consider the closure of a number of the county’s leisure centres.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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