I am prompted to write having read the article in last week’s Observer headlined ‘Dismay over proposal to cut twinning grant.’
In 2007, when the council’s Cabinet decided to establish a Friendship Link with Hastings, Sierra Leone, I made myself unpopular by suggesting that our borough council could not afford such a move.
Needless to say, the council went ahead and numerous visits to Sierra Leone followed with much useful work undoubtedly achieved. My point back then was not just whether local taxpayers could afford this but that it could dissipate our work with the four existing twin towns in Europe.
Now it would seem that with the council proposing to cut all twin town funding with the exception of Sierra Leone, that fear is likely to become a reality.
After the Second World War, there was a determination to forge friendships with those who had previously been our adversaries, especially within what we now refer to as the European Union. One simple way of healing wounds and fostering an understanding of other nations was to encourage even the smallest towns and villages to twin with other similar communities in Europe.
Admittedly, twinning has now expanded beyond the boundaries of Europe but it is worth reflecting upon its origins.
Our twin towns in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany have proved to be very successful friendship links at many different levels whether it be a football team playing their counterparts in Bethune or Opera South East being funded by our German twin town to perform in Schwerte.
Oudenaarde (Belgium) was liberated by our forces including some from the East Sussex Regiment. Then there are the personal and schools links which have done so much over the years to dispel false prejudices. The cost of maintaining our twinning links in Europe is minimal compared with what we gain in return and the way in which our partners reciprocate when we visit them.
Your article quotes £7,000 as the sum shared between the four twin towns last year. This is a tiny amount when you consider the council’s total budget and pales in to insignificance alongside some of the other items of expenditure and allowances.
To favour Sierra Leone over long-established links is frowned upon by the Hastings Association of Twin Towns. The chairman thereof says that he is ‘very disappointed’. I believe that many will share that disappointment and just hope that our representatives might think again. We will see.
All Saints Street