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Public apology issued by Wrexham Council for “failing to keep promises” on Welsh language issue

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 10th, 2018.

A senior councillor has publicly apologised after the local authority “failed to keep its promises” over improving Welsh language standards in its Council Tax bills.

Last week Wrexham.com reported that Wrexham Council had been accused of disrespecting tax payers and the Welsh language following a series of complaints between 2014 and 2017 over errors in Council Tax bills.

Over the summer the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales published a report following a second formal complaint from a resident referred to as ‘Mr D’ over the council’s failure to address the numerous concerns and amend the errors.

Speaking today Cllr Hugh Jones, lead member for communities, partnerships, public protection and community safety issued a public apology (speaking Welsh) and acknowledged that the council had failed to keep its promises.

He continued: “I have to start with a public apology, firstly to Mr D and secondly to the Ombudsman. The council failed to keep our promises to both of them.

“The report of the Ombudsman also notes that we have failed to uphold our Welsh language standards.

“On behalf of the council, I apologise.”

“I hope that those who are responsible for keeping to our statutory and moral duties will learn a lesson from this experience.

“I can assure the council and Welsh speakers that we fully support the Welsh language.

“We will conform to the demands of the Ombudsman. I am determined to make sure that we conform not only to law, but to spirit of our Welsh language standards.”

Cllr Jones added that the council had made progress in complying with its 177 Welsh language standards in recent years and that they will continue to improve going forward.

The meeting was also told by Wrexham Council’s head of finance, Mark Owen, that since August a number of the recommendations from the Ombudsman had been adhered to, including writing an apology and offering £100 compensation to Mr D.

It was also noted that “good progress” was being made in ensuring such errors don’t exist on the 2019/20 Council Tax bills.

However Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Marc Jones said the ongoing mistakes were not a good reflection of Wrexham Council and questioned why it had taken four years to amend the errors.

Mr Owen explained that a template matrix based system is used by the council and that there is a “huge matrix of all the words that might be used”.

He said: “What I’d apologise for is when it was raised with us originally, it was raised around particular words and we corrected those words, but we didn’t get the whole bill looked at.

“That’s why in the following year there were still errors on the front of the bill.

“The standard template was corrected, but the way in which the information goes onto the bill is a huge matrix of all the words that might be used.

“That will be extracted from the system and that line printed on, and that’s particularly complicated on the benefits side.”

You can read the Ombudsman’s report in full on the council website here.

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