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The council’s strategy was unclear, grit bins were not sufficiently refilled, and the snow’s dry and powdery texture made it difficult to clear, an independent Snow Report has revealed.

Photo: Katey Pigden

The report, carried out by a management and transport consultant, critiqued Cardiff Council’s handling of the snow in December, and made recommendations for the future.

The report, written by Brian Smith, was published on Friday, and examined both the planning and the recovery period.

The report described the snow, which blanketed parts of Cardiff with up to 20 centimeters, as “very dry… quite powdery, with a low moisture content, meaning the salt pre-treatment did not have the usual effect in readily turning the snow into slush.” It also maintained that heavy traffic coupled with these conditions made it difficult to use snow ploughs effectively.

Read the article in full at The Cardiffian

Cardiff is a multi-cultural melting pot that attracts people from across the globe. Yet its metropolitan nature can often disguise the city’s growing Welsh community. Home to 33,000 Welsh speakers, the language is growing steadily in the capital, particularly in the West.

Map showing numbers of Welsh speakers in Cardiff 1999-2001:

Historically, Cardiff was not a Welsh-speaking city, but it has since been transformed. There is greater confidence in the language, and people are increasingly proud to speak it, as these figures published by Cardiff Council show:

  • 1991: 18,064 Welsh speakers in Cardiff (those who could read, write and/or understand Welsh)
  • 2001: 31,944 Welsh speakers

The Welsh language itself has been in the spotlight recently. Last week the Welsh Language Measure was approved by Assembly Members, and there have been suggestions that S4C should broadcast English programmes, amid plans to scale back the broadcaster.

I spoke to Professor Mark Drakeford, and discovered that while Cardiff boasts 33,000 Welsh speakers, that impressive figure amounts to just 11% of all Welsh speakers in Wales.

Prof Drakeford served as Rhodri Morgan’s chief special adviser for almost ten years, and is now the prospective Labour candidate for the Cardiff West constituency, following Morgan’s decision to retire.

Having grown up in Carmarthen he moved to Cardiff in 1979. He spoke of how far the Welsh language has come.”You would expect these days as a Welsh speaker that if you wanted to conduct a conversation or a discussion with almost any official body in Welsh that you would be able to do it, and I think that is a huge change,” he said.

Elliw Iwan, who is part of the Welsh-medium Development team at Cardiff University, agreed. “Welsh was previously a language that had to defend itself, but now it is not like that.”

Angharad Thomas, a Youth Officer from Menter Caerdydd, said. “Welsh is everywhere. People just don’t notice. When tourists visit one of the first things they say is ‘the signs are in Welsh and English! Wow!’ We just take them for granted. Welsh is everywhere, on road signs, on menus. You hear it on the street more and more.”

Menter Caerdydd is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the Welsh Language Board and local councils, which promotes the Welsh language through activities for people of all ages. Ms Thomas, who works at the Cardiff branch, said:

“I feel a real bond, a real affiliation with the language. Language is a culture, a long-standing identity. It is about more than communicating – it’s who you are.”

Ms Iwan agreed. “Language is so emotional. That’s why they call it your ‘mother tongue’, she passes it on.”

Ms Thomas argued that Welsh speakers are largely misunderstood. “If I request something in Welsh, people ask ‘why do you want a copy in Welsh when you can speak English?’, but it’s about more than communication,” she said. “There are many pre-conceptions of Welsh speakers. People don’t understand bilingualism.”

Prof Drakeford agreed with this, and helped to dispel some of those myths:

Turning to S4C, which is based in Llanishen, Cardiff, Ms Thomas said: “I wouldn’t want English programmes on S4C. There are so many English shows on TV already, if we start hosting English programmes it may as well not be there.”

Prof Drakeford agreed: “I don’t think you can be serious about the future of a language if it doesn’t have its own broadcaster in the modern world.”

Ms Iwan added: “It’s more than a channel, it’s a way of safeguarding out language.”

In contrast, Welsh speaker Dafydd Pritchard said he would be happy to see the broadcaster host English programmes:

The Welsh language is also under scrutiny after calls for it to be given official status. In October the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) made amendments to a proposed law on the Welsh language, which they claimed would give it equal status with English in Wales, requiring companies and public bodies to use more of it.

But both Ms Thomas and Prof Drakeford doubt the significance of the move: “Making Welsh official wouldn’t make a difference to communities,” said Ms Thomas. “English isn’t an official language, but of course it is in a way.”

Prof Drakeford echoed this:

Ms Iwan said: “We cannot make everyone learn it. We have to be realistic. We need to create a healthy attitude towards Welsh, and develop an understanding of the culture.”

Welsh-medium education is also a particularly interesting issue in Cardiff, because around 85% of Welsh speakers come from English speaking homes. Increasingly parents are sending their children to one of the two Welsh-medium secondary schools in Cardiff, even though they themselves cannot understand the language.

A sign of this trend, a third Welsh-medium secondary school is due to be built in Cardiff by 2012.

Prof Drakeford spoke passionately about Welsh-medium education, describing it as a “unifying language” in multi-cultural schools in Cardiff:

He also spoke of the issue of resources in education:

Ms Iwan, who works to promote the Welsh language at Cardiff University, said there exists a strong community of Welsh speaking students in Cardiff. “There is a growing demand – students have a voice. It is gradually becoming more common to teach university courses in Welsh.”

It is clear that the Welsh language is a vital component of Cardiff life, and one which is set to grow over coming years – just this week the WAG unveiled A Living Language: A Language for Living – a new strategy to ensure the Welsh language is used in all areas of daily life.  

Ms Iwan expressed her desire to help create “a bilingual Wales”, and spoke passionately about the future of the language:

“We’ve got everything in place to safeguard Welsh, but now we need to get people to use it. We need to normalise the language, instead of having Welsh speakers in one box and non-Welsh speakers in another.”

For more information…..

BBC: The history of Welsh

Menter Caerdydd

“Video Flashcards: Level 1 – Saesneg for Welsh Speakers”:

Ralph Cook has been suspended as a city councillor for two months, after he was found to be in breach of the code of conduct by likening Cardiff council’s executive to Nazi Germany.

Coun Cook was accused of misconduct after he described coalition leader Rodney Berman’s Liberal Democrats as “stormtroopers censoring the council” during a February 2009 budget meeting. He is also in trouble for comparing the coalition to 1930s Germany for supposedly quashing opposition debate, as well as a distributing a leaflet describing Lib Dem election workers as stormtroopers mounting a blitzkrieg on his ward in summer 2009.

Adjudication Panel for Wales, sitting in a hearing at the Mercure Holland House Hotel in Cardiff on Tuesday, declared Coun Cook had failed to show respect for Mr Berman’s Jewish descent. In doing so he brought his office as a councillor into disrepute.

Coun Cook insisted to the adjudication tribunal he was “horrified” when he realised the true gravity of his remarks, and that Coun Berman had interpreted his use of phrases like “stormtroopers” as an attack on his Jewish faith. Coun Cook told the three-man panel he had misunderstood the basis of Coun Berman’s initial protests about such language, and took them as a personal attack. Only seven months later did he come to appreciate the personal offence his remarks had caused.

The panel adjourned on Tuesday evening after a three-day hearing to consider the punishment, which could have ranged from a reprimand to a 12-month ban from his seat on the council. Coun Cook could even have been barred for five years from public office. In the end he was given the minimum suspension of two months.

Speaking to Guardian Cardiff after the meeting, Cook, who is councillor for the Trowbridge ward, said he was relieved at the outcome, and pleased the panel had decided his actions were not racially motivated or bullying.

“I fully accept the decision made by the panel today,” he said. “I repeat that I’m extremely sorry for any offence that Rodney Berman may have felt or did feel as a result of my comments in the council chamber and outside the council chamber on 26 February 2009.

“It was not intended personally and certainly was not based in his religious or ethnic background.”

Coun Berman welcomed the decision. He said: “I am satisfied the verdict and sanction took into account the total unacceptability of the language that Councillor Cook used in drawing wholly inappropriate comparisons between Cardiff council’s administration and the Nazis, and recognised that he had done so knowing that it would cause me offence in a manner the adjudication panel has described as ‘personal abuse’.”