Junkets End: the demise of Twinning Arangements

English: County Hall, Northallerton
County Hall, Northallerton

For some reason unknown to me (and I suspect the majority of other residents in my home town), Northallerton is twinned with Ormesson-sur-Marnea southeastern suburb of Paris, France. Tens of thousands such town-twinning agreements exist across Europe with more than 2,000 in the UK alone however; it appears the times they are a changing…

The first recorded modern twinning agreement was between Keighley (West Yorkshire) and Poix-du-Nord, France in 1920 following the end of World War I. The practice was continued after the Second World War as a way to bring European people into a closer understanding of each other and to promote cross-border projects of mutual benefit.

Bishop’s Stortford dumps its twin towns in France and Germany: Tory town council has ended links with Friedberg in Germany and Villiers-sur-Marne in France, citing a ‘lack of interest’  (guardian.co.uk)

For some time now, people outside of our Town Halls have been asking questions about whether the practice of Twinning is still relevent. Are the costs involved of any real value to our community today? Why are we paying for the so-called Junkets of our Civic Leaders? And most importantly of all given these austere times, can this (relatively small) drain of tax-payers money from the public purse actually be justified?

Why are towns un-twinning? – British towns are starting to scrap their twinning arrangements with continental counterparts. Why are they doing so, and do such links have any purpose in the 21st Century? (bbc.co.uk)

The BBC article (above), although not that well received by several of those making comment, examines (and partly answers) many of the questions being raised. Because, while such arrangements “once symbolised an idealistic postwar sprit of reconciliation,” a myriad of newspaper articles about local dignitaries and alleged overseas junkets have caused something of a sea-change in public attitudes. A mood which popularity conscious politicians are keen to capitalise upon.

My opinion falls into the category of those who believe; town twinning although once relevent, especially when our society was (mostly) less well-travelled and less worldly-wise, no longer holds the importance and relevance it previously did. Since the advent of cheap package travel and the internet age, many of the cultural and educational oportunities, once lourded as reasons for twinning, are now more freely available to all.

We have enough difficulty understanding and valuing the diversity and history of our own society today therefore, unless it can be proven, without any element of doubt, that a twinning is of some realistic, worthwhile and tangible value to a town or community today, the whole process should be consigned to our history books. A procees that was once valuable but is no longer so.

Perhaps you have a different opinion?