War of words over language 'rebuff'
Harold F. Schiffman
haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Sat May 14 14:45:54 UTC 2005
War of words over language 'rebuff' May 12 2005
By Hywel Trewyn, Daily Post (North Wales)
NORTH Wales council officers were yesterday caught in a war of words with
an Assembly minister who replied in English to a plea for cash. Plaid
Cymru-run Gwynedd council asked the Labour Assembly Government for the
extra money to build new council homes last year. But Edwina Hart, the
minister for social justice and regeneration, snubbed the council's Welsh
language policy in a letter to Gwynedd care director Dafydd Lewis.
Mrs Hart, who is responsible for housing, also claimed Gwynedd had
underspent its social housing grant by over 4m and was inefficient. The
council disputes the allegation. And Gwynedd was taking Mrs Hart's
language rebuff so seriously it was to be discussed today at the council's
annual general meeting. In her March letter to Mr Lewis, Mrs Hart said:
"Your authority's request for additional funding from the Welsh Assembly
Government has been noted.
"I also note that in the current financial year, over 1.4m of Social
Housing Grant (SHG) is expected to remain unspent in Gwynedd, and that
since 2000/2001 the amount of unspent SHG exceeds 4m. "When private
borrowing is taken into consideration over 6m of investment in housing has
been lost to the people of Gwynedd. "It would, perhaps, be appropriate to
consider ways in which the resources currently available for social
housing in Gwynedd could be put to more effective use."
The council also asked the Assembly to abolish the right-to-buy scheme. It
allows people to buy their council homes at a discount but has slashed the
number of houses available. With right-to-buy, Mrs Hart said the Assembly
had made an order enabling local authorities to restrict re-sales of
former right-to-buy properties in rural areas. In addition, an order was
made on April 2 reducing the maximum discount to 16,000.
In his reply, Mr Lewis said its SHG grant allocation had been "fully
committed" each year and that Gwynedd had committed more of its grant
towards Homebuy - a scheme which helps young people buy their homes - than
any other local authority in Wales. In previous years, the council had
used any spare cash to buy former council houses for renting.
GWYNEDD council has apologised to Criccieth Town Council for taking nearly
a month to act on a letter in English from the Health and Safety
Executive. A Gwynedd spokeswoman said: "As a public body operating in
Wales, the HSE is duty bound to provide a bilingual version of the
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