Council Conflict Over Palestine Town Twinning Meeting

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A special meeting of the Borough Council to discuss the issue of Hounslow’s town twinning arrangement with Ramallah in Palestine has been branded "a complete waste of time and money" by Conservative councillors.

Cllr Peter Hills along with other Labour councillors and John Connolly of the Hounslow Independent Alliance called a special meeting of the Borough Council on Tuesday evening to discuss the re-establishment of the Hounslow-Ramallah Town twinning Association and sought for the Association to be recognised by the Council

Calling the meeting a waste of time and an unnecessary expense, Cllr Peter Thompson said, “Conservatives want to concentrate the Council's efforts on delivering the best possible services to the people of the London Borough of Hounslow."

He said that the Labour Party were looking to "distract the public from the real issues facing local government" with a "stunt will win them a few votes in the local elections.”

He continued, “Re-establishing this twinning arrangement after years of inactivity will not help the people of Hounslow and won’t help the situation. What we must do is support the peacekeeping moves that are going on at the moment.”

“The role of the Council is to serve residents from all communities, including our relatively small Jewish population – I think this organisation has to prove the value of the relationship to the residents of Hounslow and the Council. Do they have clear support from any Jewish organisations in Hounslow?”

“I am amazed that at a time when the country is broke, unemployment is raising, inflation is on the up, the election is days away they are wasting resident’s hard earned money on this meeting. I can see no urgency whatsoever – after all the Council meets many times a year so why call a special meeting at a cost of several thousand pounds now? Any decisions about future spending of local taxpayers money on town twinning should be for the new Council to make once it is elected on 6 May.”

Paul Hughes-Smith, of West London's Palestine Solidarity Campaign commented "This seems to be as much an issue of interparty fighting on the council as it is about giving support to the beleaguered citizens of Ramallah and helping people in Hounslow to benefit from possible cultural,social and educational interchange with another part of the world. I don't think there is any expectation that if the twinning is revived, vast amounts of council funds will be devoted to it. Whatever exchanges and dialogue that might be set up would probably have to be funded from elsewhere but the imprimatur of the council will help to facilitate this and also the use of council premises for meetings and perhaps some clerical help might be all that is required.

"I was struck when I visited Ramallah how much good work was being done at that time (2005) in the cultural sphere with exchange and youth programmes with other EU countries. Anything that makes the Palestinians feel less isolated will help to dispel anger and contribute to a better understanding of the situation on both sides. I wish this project well. "

Councillor Andrew Dakers explains why he did not vote in favour “The goals of the Hounslow-Ramallah Town Twinning Association, as I explained in full Council, I fully support. Hounslow is hugely diverse and where local residents want to establish active twinning relationships with different parts of the world, this is to be welcomed.  Well run it should be of cultural, social and economic benefit.

“Clearly the timing of this motion debate was unfortunate as this is a politically heated period prior to 6 May where Labour and the Tories seem intent on slinging mud at each other.  This community project unfortunately got stuck in the cross-fire.

“Given the motion clearly was not going to get majority support on Tuesday night, I decided it was best to support deferral of the motion until after the election.  This has the advantage of giving Council officers more time to produce a report on the proposals for councillors.  The report can put the twinning relationship in context and consider how it would work best in practice.”

April 30, 2010