South East Wales

Bridgend town council votes to end European twinning support

Photo of Bridgend sign Image copyright Lewis Clarke/Geograph
Image caption The motion, put forwards by four councillors, had called for the town council to be "absolved from any direct responsibility" for the twinning schemes

Bridgend councillors have voted to distance themselves from historic links with European towns, despite fears it will leave the town with "no friends".

Since 1971 it has been twinned with Langenau, Germany, and in 1994 paired up with Villenave d'Ornon, in France.

The town council voted to get rid of all "direct responsibility" for the partnerships on Wednesday night handing control to an independent group.

Bridgend town mayor Robert Morgan said the move "reflected local changes".

In a statement issued by the council, Cllr Morgan said there was no reason the links could not continue and it was never the intention to abolish town twinning all together.

Tweeting in his capacity as Bridgend AM ahead of Wednesday's meeting, First Minister Carwyn Jones warned: "Do we want to be known as the town with no friends?".

In recent years, exchange trips have been been run by the Bridgend twinning committee, supported by the town council.

Councillors voted for an amended motion, which means the council will no longer have any direct responsibility for any twinning and friendships arrangements.

This includes Bridgend's friendship with Hechtel-Eksel in Belgium, started in 2014.

All responsibility will be devolved to a new independent twinning group with "immediate effect".

The body will have to compete with other organisations for grants to fund exchanges and civic visits will be considered on merit in the future.

"The passing of this motion does not mean that town-twinning activities in Bridgend will cease," a statement issued by the mayor and deputy mayor says.

"We wish to emphasise that the passing of this motion does not reflect any criticisms of the Charter Mayors, nor the Town-Twinning Committee Members, but reflects local changes.

"Finally, Bridgend town council wishes the town-twinning committee every success and will continue to work with the group to ensure that the relationships fostered with our European partners can go from strength to strength."

Bridgend AM Mr Jones said he was pleased the council would create a new group to take on the twinning and "had not turned their backs on our European friends".

In a letter sent ahead of the meeting, Debra Walsh, subject leader for modern foreign languages at Brynteg School, said exchange trips with Villenave d'Ornon, in south west France had been "invaluable" for pupils and teachers.

But she said without financial and organisational support it would be very difficult to sustain the visits.

"Very many of Bridgend's children would be deprived of a hugely rewarding and memorable experience," she wrote.

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