Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bishop's Stortford Council denies being "anti-Europe" in twinning row

An argument has broken out in a Hertfordshire town over a decision to cancel its twinning arrangement with towns in France and Germany.

Bishop's Stortford has been twinned with Friedberg in Germany and Villiers-sur Marne in France for 46 years.

The council's decision has been described as an "anti-Europe" reaction.

Denying the suggestion, council leader John Wyllie said town twinning "didn't have as much relevance in today's society".

In November, Conservative councillor Mr Wyllie sent a letter to his counterparts in both European towns telling them the relationship would end in September 2012.

In it, he said that the relevance of town twinning had declined and that "efforts should be directed to activities which have a wider benefit to our residents".

'Not anti-Europe'

Councillor Wyllie has denied that the decision was a "Euro-sceptic" reaction following prime minister David Cameron's decision to veto EU-wide treaty changes.

"It is most definitely not [anti-Europe] - the EU, Europe and the Euro didn't even come into the discussion," he said.

"We decided this in September but Mr Sarkozy, Ms Merkel and Mr Cameron had their spat a couple of weeks ago and it just happens to have coincided with the time that our letters were received."

He explained that the council still wanted its town twinning committee to continue.

"We actually aren't ending twinning," explained Councillor Wyllie.

"What we've said is that we don't actually think it should be a council function and that the town twinning committee would probably do a better job on their own so that they can re-invent themselves into something that's relevant to today's society."

Chair of Bishop's Stortford Town Twinning Association, Dave Smith, said it was "fundamental" that the council was involved with twinning and that it had given "lukewarm" reasons for ending the arrangement.

"If in the event we can't persuade it to reconsider the matter then the Twinning Association will continue to have links with our opposite numbers without council involvement," he said.

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