Welsh council seeks bank holiday for St David’s Day despite Westminster veto

Welsh council seeks bank holiday for St David’s Day despite Westminster veto
Gwynedd Council asked the UK Government to recognise March 1 as a bank holiday but the idea was rejected.

A Welsh council is to discuss making St David’s Day a bank holiday for its workers despite the UK Government’s rejection of the plan.

Gwynedd Council in North Wales wants to recognise the country’s patron saint’s day, which takes place on March 1, by giving staff an extra day off a year.

The proposal, which will be discussed on Tuesday, says it would cost around £200,000, mainly through having to employ casual workers to maintain public services.

In October last year, the council called on the UK Government to consider officially recognising St David’s Day as a day of national celebration but the idea was rejected. The Cabinet said too many people commute across the Welsh and English border to make it feasible.

Kim Milhench, left, Grace Whitton and Mark Selby dress as daffodils during a St David’s Day parade in Cardiff (Ben Birchall/PA)

The council had also asked that the power to create bank holidays for Wales be devolved to the Welsh Government, but this too was rejected.

Both devolved governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have been given the power to create bank holidays, and the patron saints of those countries, St Andrew and St Patrick, are celebrated with bank holidays.

St George’s Day, observed across England every April 23, is not a bank holiday.

Council Chairman Simon Glyn wrote in a letter to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng MP: “It has been an affront to the Welsh people for centuries that, as a country, we do not have the power to celebrate our patron saint’s day. The cost is always put forward as an argument, but a bank holiday is a great boost for the economy of rural areas.”

That Wales is the only country in the union not to have the power to create bank holidays has been called “embarrassing”, he noted.

In reply, Paul Scully MP, the Minster for Small Business, said: “While we appreciate that the people of Wales want to celebrate their patron saint, more people work across the English/Welsh border than across the English/Scottish border.

“This closer degree of integration could cause greater business disruption. If we had separate bank holidays in England and Wales, the impact on both employees and businesses is difficult to predict.”

The current proposal, included in today’s agenda, calls the response from Westminster on the issue “extremely disappointing”.

If agreed locally, the council will press on with the plans to allow public servants across Gwynedd to have the day off.

The council said it had consulted with trade unions on the matter, but teachers would not be included in the plans because that would have to be granted on a national level.