Town twinning plan triggers council row

It should have been a joyous occasion as a Norfolk mayor prepared to welcome children from the town's German twin. But instead flared tempers, heated debates and hurt feelings were the order of the day when a trip to Watton for young musicians from the town of Weeze was revealed.

It should have been a joyous occasion as a Norfolk mayor prepared to welcome children from the town's German twin.

But instead flared tempers, heated debates and hurt feelings were the order of the day when a trip to Watton for young musicians from the town of Weeze was revealed.

Mayor and chairman of the town council, Keith Gilbert, has been organising for 43 children from Weeze to visit for a long weekend.

The aim is for pupils from both countries to meet, learn about each other's culture and forge links between the towns.

But when the idea was brought up during Watton Town Council meeting on Monday, councillors were outraged they had not been informed yet Mr Gilbert was hoping to use council tax payers' money to finance it.

Lorriane McCarthy said: "What you are hoping to do is spend ratepayers' money without letting us know.

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"We are meant to represent the people of Watton and should have heard about this.

"Anything affecting the town council's money should be put forward and discussed, not brought up as an aside while expecting us to say nothing."

Mr Gilbert said councillors had nothing to worry about as he was planning on using his £400 mayoral allowance to fund the trip, and how he spent that was at his discretion and any extra money needed would come from his own pocket.

However, town council clerk Jacqui Seal announced the mayoral allowance was for travelling expenses and instead money for the trip would need to be taken from the civic ceremony account and would require councillors' approval.

When Richard Crabtree - a councillor who has been helping to make the arrangements for the trip, which will see the German visitors taken bowling, shown Norwich and given a barbeque - was asked how much money would be needed to fund all the excursions, he said he had "no idea".

Fellow councillor Janet Carr said: "I think we all need to take a step back and calm down. Let's focus on the positives. I think this is a great idea, which we should finance. We should put the details and past behind us."

Eventually, councillors agreed to give £500 for the trip, set to take place later this month, from the £1,500 civic ceremony fund.

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