Town twinning depends upon public response

RESIDENTS have the chance to put forward their views on whether Morpeth should be twinned with a foreign town.

The town council has resisted such an arrangement in the past, but a working group was set up to look into its potential after it discovered that European funding is available to investigate the options.

And now it has launched a consultation to find out if there is sufficient support for the idea.

A detailed questionnaire is available for members of the public to fill in if they wish. It was drawn up by the working group members – councillors Nic Best, Ken Brown and Alison Byard.

Coun Brown said: “If we were to do it, town twinning would rely on the voluntary commitment of residents working with us and local associations.

“Although the town council would encourage and facilitate twinning, activities and exchanges must be initiated by, and primarily involve, residents’ groups and not councillors. Therefore, if there is no or little interest from residents and other stakeholders, the idea is not viable or sustainable.

“Who we would twin with is a key decision.

“This must be based on the strongest and most enduring criteria, not just current issues.

“The criteria may be common historical or cultural links, socio-economic reasons such as skills, a fellow market town and population size, environmental similarities, for example flooding, or through schools and young people.

“Any decision to twin cannot be taken lightly. There are costs involved and, in some quarters, twinning has a reputation for being a ‘jolly’ for public figures.

“It is therefore very important that modern-day twinning addresses these issues and demonstrates that it is both sustainable and community-led.”

He added that from next year, some funding may be available from the European Commission under the successor to the Europe for Citizens 2007-13 programme to help groups get their proposal up and running.

One of the questions asks people to say which organisation or organisations should take the lead in establishing a town-twinning project.

The questionnaire document is available at the town hall. The deadline to complete it is the end of this month.