The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 modernised the existing legal framework regarding the use of the Welsh language in the provision of public services in Wales.

It made provision for the official status of the Welsh language and established the office of the Welsh Language Commissioner which replaced the Welsh Language Board. It made Welsh an official language in Wales. This means it must be treated no less favourably than English and that when dealing with the state (i.e. central and local government, the health service, etc.), Welsh speakers are entitled to use the vernacular.

However, its provisions do not apply to the private sector, such as monoglot car park management companies based in England but operating in Wales, has been brought to light by the small matter of a parking charge in a small village in Ceredigion.

Today’s Nation Cymru reports on the case of Welsh language campaigner who was due to appear in court for non-payment of a parking charge for the sea front car park in Llangrannog in September 2020.

Llangrannog viewed from the south cliffs. The car park in question is just to the left of the picture’s centre.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today Toni Schiavone, a former teacher and education officer for the Welsh Government, was due to appear at Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court to answer a charge of not paying a penalty charge notice issued to him solely in English by One Parking Solutions Ltd. of Worthing in West Sussex.

Mr. Schiavone repeatedly contacted the company requesting the penalty notice and further correspondence in Welsh and is on record as stating he would only pay the charge if the notice was served in Welsh, but his words fell upon deaf ears, with One Parking Solutions replied with typical colonial arrogance that the company was based in England and under no obligation to issue penalty notices in Welsh.

Mr Schiavone’s response to One Parking Solutions’ less than helpful reply was quoted by Nation Cymru as follows:

It would be nothing for them to issue a penalty notice in Welsh but they have ignored the request and decided to take me to court. They are the ones causing trouble for themselves.”

As this post was being drafted, Wales Online announced that Mr Schiavone’s case had been thrown out of court as there was no representative from One Parking Solutions present.

In a delicious piece of irony the court received all the papers from the plaintiff – including a copy of the penalty charge notice – in Welsh as Mr Schiavone was exercising his right to use his vernacular in court; this all had to be translated by One Parking Solutions.

Speaking after the case, Mr Schiavone put the case for extending the provision of Welsh language services to the private sector in Wales, stating:

This clearly shows the need to extend the language measure to include the private sector. Private companies like this have said many times over the years that they will not provide Welsh language services voluntarily.