Mr Z complained that he had been wrongly prevented from attending monthly meetings of the Llansannan Community Council (“the Council”). He further complained that before he was told he could no longer attend, the Council had stopped providing any translation facility for those meetings. The Council transacts its business in Welsh and Mr Z does not understand Welsh.
The investigation found that there had been maladministration in the manner in which the Council reached its decision to prevent Mr Z attending meetings. There were no minutes or any record of the appeal Panel meeting at which the decision was said to have been taken. The Ombudsman also considered there were no evidenced grounds for its decision given the statutory enshrined right of members of the public to attend meetings of elected councils so long as no disruption was caused at meetings (when attendees could be asked to leave or that right withdrawn). There was no evidence of any disruption when Mr Z had attended; the decision had been solely based on his conduct in daily life outside meetings. Whilst not condoning that conduct, there was no basis to prevent Mr Z from attending.
The Ombudsman was satisfied that the Council could, as it had done, elect to transact its business in Welsh but she was not persuaded that it had demonstrated how it might ensure the non Welsh speaking public could engage in its democratic business (as noted by guidance issued by the Welsh Government). Furthermore, the Council’s own adopted Welsh Language Scheme stated that it would treat both languages equally. It could not therefore objectively be doing so if it failed to make some provision for those attending meetings who did not understand Welsh. Otherwise those members of the electorate could not understand what was being discussed.
The Ombudsman made the following recommendations to the Council:
i. To apologise to Mr Z for the maladministration resulting in the injustice to him of not being able to attend monthly meetings.
ii. To review a number of its policies including its Standing Orders and Welsh Language Scheme to ensure greater clarity as to its position on translation at business meetings.
iii. To ensure it recorded decisions taken pursuant to its policies and procedures.
A full copy of the report is available below.