‘Council big wigs’ excuse to hop abroad’? Salford Council blow £87,000 on town-twinning trips

By Danielle Wainwright

A whopping £87,000 of taxpayer money has been spent by Salford Council on trips to twinned towns, with nearly half the costs racked up last year alone, MM can reveal.

A freedom of information request shows that the staggering amount was spent on trips and grants in the last five years to the twinned towns of Saint Ouen, Clermont-Ferrand and Narbonne in France and Lünen in Germany.

In total, £87,309.75 was spent by the Labour-heavy council from 2008 – a period where the British recession was most prominent.

However the council maintain that the money spent was vital for young residents who have seen positive steps made toward education.

“Countless young people have benefited through exchanges over the years,” Labour Councillor Derek Antrobus, assistant mayor for strategic planning, said.

“It has enabled links to develop to attract European funding, such as an international research project involving Salford University and Clermont-Ferrand. A group of residents in Islington have won some European funding thanks to an idea developed with our twin town of Saint Ouen.”

Yet with cuts still being made throughout councils and households, some argue the money could have been spent on returning many families to a state of financial stability.

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Twinning is too often used as an excuse for Council big wigs and politicians to hop abroad.

“Twinning was designed to bring communities together after World War II, however it’s impossible to justify spending taxpayers’ money on it in an age when global communications are so readily available.

“Local residents who want to maintain historic links should be allowed to do so but the bill should not fall on hard-pressed taxpayers.”

In recent years, Conservative councils across the UK have scrapped town twinning plans in an attempt to moderate cash expenditure.

In September 2011, the Conservative town of Bishop’s Stortford severed twin town ties with their European ‘twins’ and Conservative leader, John Wyllie, claimed that the council ended links because of lack of interest and that twinning was no longer relevant in today’s society.

Gary Tumulty, who submitted the FOI and is head of Salford BNP, said: “The council need to save money not chuck it away, people have been forced to pay bedroom tax, get no help with council tax under the benefit reform, weekly bin collections have stopped and front line services like repairs have been slashed in a whole range of cuts.

“The Salford Labour are a very expensive council, and whilst all the cuts are going on and people are struggling to make ends meet, the Labour Party in Salford are reigning large amounts of cash for themselves.

“Labour say ‘we are all in it together’ I say ‘Yes some more than others’.”

Picture courtesy of ssshupe, with thanks.

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