Twinning links to be maintained - and funded by £20,000 in Cheltenham
TWINNING links between Cheltenham and the rest of the world should be maintained despite the price tag, say council bosses.
The borough council has set aside more than £20,000 to pay for twinning events in the coming year.
But critics have suggested the money might be better spent in other areas, like services which are feeling the strain, especially with the financial benefits of twinning being so hard to quantify.
Cheltenham is currently twinned with Annecy in France; Cheltenham in Pennsylvania, USA; Gottingen in Germany; Sochi in Russia; and Weihai in China. It also maintains 'friendship links' with Stampersgat in the Netherlands and Kisumu in Kenya.
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The authority will spend £16,600 on twinning staff salaries and £5,600 on twinning activities in 2013/14. In 2012, there were 28 separate twinning events, involving some 411 participants, bringing 288 visitors to Cheltenham.
Councillor Steve Jordan (LD, All Saints), leader of the council, said: "It is impossible to calculate exactly the permanent financial gain to the town of twinning, but we know that education, cultural and business links are being formed which can only be healthy for our local economy.
"In addition, having 288 extra twinning visitors to Cheltenham helps boost the economy directly through them spending money in the shops, restaurants, hotels, bars and cultural establishments. If every one of our 288 visitors spent just £100 in the town, the total financial benefit to the town would be nearly £30,000."
The council has said it hopes its twinning work will lead to increased sharing of best practice and enhanced business links.
Councillor Rob Garnham (C, Park), leader of the town's Conservative group, said: "I know there are mixed views among all of the politicians in Cheltenham about the benefits of twinning but having been mayor of the town I have experienced the really positive benefits it can bring," he said.
"I would be reluctant to sever our twinning link. I think there have been benefits for people in Cheltenham and for the people in the towns we are twinned with."