COUNCIL leader Mike Jones says the new Cheshire West and Chester authority won’t be supporting twinning with foreign towns because it is simply amounts to ‘cheap and free holidays for councillors’.
Cllr Mike Jones (Con, Broxton) has incurred the wrath of twinning enthusiasts who are threatening to launch a campaign.
They claim twinning leads to social and economic benefits.
But Cllr Jones, who visited twin towns when Lord Mayor of Chester, said managing the arrangements used to cost council tax payers more than £70,000 a year for Chester and about £20,000 for Ellesmere Port.
He said: “Councillors like to have cheap and free holidays and I don’t think it’s morally correct to be supporting that level of expenditure when reorganising a council with £30m to save and making staff redundant.”
Cllr Jones said legally speaking the relationship between, for example, Chester with Sens in France and Ellesmere Port with Reutlingen in Germany ended with the demise of the former councils for those areas.
He wants his authority to follow the lead of the former Vale Royal Council, which encouraged people in the community to finance cultural exchanges themselves.
Cllr Jones, who insists he is in favour of international links, said spending priorities should be schools and the neglected City Walls. There was ‘no evidence’ twinning led to economic spin-offs.
“Various councillors go off on their jaunts. It’s a gravy train and I think it’s unacceptable in the current climate,” he added.
John Price, former city council Labour group leader and current president of the Walled Town Friendship Circle, said it was ‘likely’ twinning enthusiasts would start a campaign to reverse the move.
Mr Price, who has just returned from a trade fair in Sens at the weekend with his wife Ethel, said they had both paid the £50 per head coach fare out of their own pockets and stayed with friends. They had been accompanied by Roman soldiers helping to promote Chester as a must-see European destination by 2015.
“People used to say Chester is twinned with the world and we don’t need to twin with anyone – how arrogant! We changed that,” said Mr Price.
“It’s not purely about the money. It started after the Second World War to bring towns in other countries together.”