CAMPAIGNERS are set to protest against possible cuts to Welsh language immersion centres, ahead of a crucial cabinet meeting.

As part of planned cuts to help balance the books following the loss of Welsh Government grant funding, Gwynedd council is planning to slash  the available funding for its immersion centres by £96,00 from September – which could see one of the centres closed or the facilities staffed by fewer teachers.

A decision is expected by the council cabinet on April 2, which comes just weeks after the full motion passed a motion objection to any cuts which would have a “a harmful impact” on the service provided.

The centres offer intensive language sessions for children from other parts of the UK and abroad who move into the county unable to speak Welsh, meaning they are at least partially fluent when joining their local school.

At present, the five centres are based in Dolgellau, Llangybi, Maesincla, Penrhyndeudraeth and Porthmadog.

But according to pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the centres have the ability to “change people’s lives” and have an “extremely positive” impact on the language.

As a result, members will hold a protest on Caernarfon’s Maes on Saturday March 30, less than a week before their fate is decided.

In a letter to the council leader, the wife of a man who moved to Talysarn from Kent in the early 90’s warned that any cuts would be “very damaging.”

Marcus Smith was intensively taught Welsh in the Llangybi language centre after his family moved from to Talysarn in the early nineties.

“Thanks to this centre and its staff, Marcus is now living his life in Welsh and speaks it naturally with his children,” Annest Smith, who will also speak during the protest, wrote in her letter to Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn.

“Without attending the language centre, this would almost certainly not be the case.

“As you know, we are a Welsh only speaking family in the house, and Marcus is a part of a rural agricultural community in Meirionnydd.”

She added, “These centres have a long term impact on so many people and families in Gwynedd. They are essential to the survival of the language in the county and beyond.

“Any cuts would be very damaging, and would be contrary to the council’s language policy.”

Council officers have highlighted the need to cut costs due to rising inflation as well as a 10% cut in the Welsh Government’s Education Improvement Grant (EIG), resulting in a shortfall in the centres’ budgets.

The grant is shared out among schools and is used to improve the quality of teaching, learning, leadership, and to support inclusion, but last year’s draft budget outlined plans to slash funding by £22m over two years.

But Menna Machreth of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, urged the cabinet to “change their minds.”

Menna Machreth from Cymdeithas yr Iaith added: “Annest and Marcus’ family’s experience just goes to show how important these language centres are to the language and our communities,” she said.

“They change people’s lives and have an extremely positive impact on the language, and also in the long term.

“The centres are one of the main successes there have been in terms of including those who move in to Wales – ensuring that schools continue to teach through the medium of Welsh and giving full access to community life to the young people who move into the area.

“We’re hopeful that the council’s cabinet will change its mind before making a final decision next month.”

The protest will be held on Caernarfon’s Maes from 11:30am on Saturday, March 30 before the cabinet meets, also in Caernarfon, on Tuesday, April 2 at 1pm.