Dismay over proposal to cut twinning grant

Some of the young people from Schwerte who visited Hastings in September 2012

Some of the young people from Schwerte who visited Hastings in September 2012

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The council is proposing to withdraw funding to the town’s four twinning groups, due to budget constraints.

Hastings Association of Twin Towns (HATT) said it was dismayed over the plans, of which a final decision will be made on February 25 at the council’s budget meeting.

Ken Sharples, HATT chairman, said: “I am very disappointed that only the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link will possibly be receiving a grant this year. The link is in fact a twinning link with the charter being signed in February 2007. Why is this partnership being treated differently to the European twinning partnerships, of which Béthune has been in existence since 1972? The grant we receive helps us to entertain our guests when they visit. Although I fully understand the necessity to reduce expenditure, I believe by not issuing a small grant, which last year was £7,000 to cover all twinning in the town, we will lose it all together. We are proud to advertise by a large sign on one of the major roads into Hastings that we’re twinned with four towns on the Continent - Béthune, Oudenaarde, Dordrecht and Schwerte. But I feel in the future this will be just signs with no real meaning to them. I would ask all members of the twinning organisations to write a letter or send an email to their local councillor telling them of their experience of twinning and let’s hope the council sees sense.”

Council leader Jeremy Birch said: “The further substantial cut in our Government grant means difficult decisions have to be made, and no budget cuts are easy. However, we know that the European twin towns already have strong links, and we would hope that these will continue, even without council support.

“The situation is different with Sierra Leone, which had major economic challenges even before the current Ebola crisis. It is not realistic to expect twinning to take place without some support. This is our newest twin town link, and we are keen to maintain the momentum.”