Sidmouth’s 32-year link with Swiss ‘twin’ questioned

Anne Bishop, chairman of Sidmouth Twinning Circle and members, celebrate 30 years since Sidmouth twi

Anne Bishop, chairman of Sidmouth Twinning Circle and members, celebrate 30 years since Sidmouth twinned with Swiss town Le-Locle. Ref shs 5431-38-14TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Is enduring friendship with Le Locle worth tax payers’ money?

Paul Wright

Paul Wright - Credit: Archant

Questions have been raised over whether Sidmouth’s three-decade old twinning tradition remains relevant and worthy of taxpayers’ money.

A charter sealing the friendship between the town and Le Locle, in Switzerland, was signed in 1984 with the aim of promoting cultural, economic and educational ties.

But members of the town council’s tourism committee have questioned the relevance in twinning Sidmouth with a landlocked Swiss town - and challenged whether it brings any benefits to justify the authority’s financial contribution.

Addressing councillors at a meeting of the committee this month, chairman of Sidmouth Twinning Circle Anne Bishop said the link extends through the populations of each town and promotes tourism. She said the whole of Sidmouth got behind 30th anniversary celebrations.

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Councillor Paul Wright said: “I think it was a fantastic idea when it came about...but I’m struggling to see why we are twinned with a landlocked city renowned for its clocks. My issue is that it’s not privately funded, it’s part-funded by taxpayers and we put not an inconsiderable amount of money towards their visits. I’m not sure what value we are getting from the town.

“When I have spoken to people, none of them could tell me who we are twinned with or how it benefits people in the town.”

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In response, Mrs Bishop argued Le Locle – in a valley and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site – is a good match for Sidmouth in terms of size. She said the differences between the two enhance the cultural exchange.

Cllr Louise Cole said: “I recognise how hard it is to keep the momentum for this kind of organisation going.

“I like the idea of twinning, but I cannot help but feel it is not fulfilling its potential in terms of reach. I think there are some questions and we need to support some review of it.”

She suggested more could be done to promote tourism in the town, but Cllr Stuart Hughes argued he would put a lot of value in the role of the twinning circle in promoting Sidmouth. He said: “How many people from Switzerland came to Sidmouth because they see signs that it’s twinned with Le Locle?

“How much value can you put on the Tour of Britain coming here?

“Who knows how many twinning members come back later and bring their families to see just how much we do have to offer in Sidmouth.”

Mrs Bishop said: “People from Le Locle will get in touch with a friend of a friend and ask for somewhere to stay and then they come and spend their money here. Sidmouth is quite unique and unlike what they are used to and that is what brings people here.”

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