Call to get much closer to our twins
8:00pm Sunday 21st October 2012 in Latest News
SWINDON Council must do more to get better value out of links between Swindon and its twin and exchange towns across the globe, according to those involved in the projects.
Swindon has two formal twinning arrangements: one established with the city of Salzgitter, in Germany, in 1975, and another set up with the city of Ocotal, in Nicaragua, in 1990.
The council pays annual grants, totalling £2,300 a year, towards the administration of these links, and there is also an annual budget of £2,000 for civic visits between Swindon Council and the twin authorities.
Swindon also has friendship agreements with the cities of Torun, in Poland, and Chattanooga, in Tennessee, USA.
Each of these groups organise their own fundraising, activities, events and exchange visits, and usually give an update of their activities to the Town Twinning Network, which was established in 1999 to support the groups.
Twinning aims to build international links for Swindon’s citizens, groups and businesses, and provide opportunities for cultural or educational exchange and economic growth, either through increased tourism or new links between businesses.
However, a review presented to cabinet on Wednesday, shows that members of the Town Twinning Network feel more could be done, including a greater focus on the economic benefits of twinning to Swindon.
They also want better recognition of town twinning activities and benefits by departmental heads and lead members, greater promotion of town twinning activities within Swindon, better resources made available to access EU and other funding, and greater involvement from the mayor’s office and mayoral attendance at twinning events.
Bruce Clarke, of Swindon Ocotal Link, said: “Without a clear strategic position within council’s business plan, twinning will continue as it is at the moment; based on the initiative of a few people.
“If given a larger role, the activists are capable of delivering a more inclusive civic service. The adoption of service agreements in return for resources, both in kind and or financial, would bring council officers into the discussion about what the various link organisations can do.
“The role of twinning will develop into establishing international links, probably not twinning in its traditional sense, but working links that meet educational, business and community interests.”
Coun Stan Pajak, a member of TASTE (Torun and Swindon Twinning Enterprise), said: “I have been to Torun and every time I struggle to take any documentation that promotes Swindon. “I go to Forward Swindon and there’s nothing. I believe there’s a lot to be had from our relationship. For example, in Torun, it has one of the largest universities in Europe.”
Council leader, Coun Rod Bluh, promised to consider the points. He said: “I will take your point on board about the documentation, I will pass that on, I think it’s important.
“I don’t believe in this country we do civic pride nearly enough, because every time I go abroad they do it 10 times better than we do.”