Establishing a twinning association
In the UK , twinning is generally managed in one of three ways:
* by the local authority;
* by an independent twinning association, comprising voluntary members of the community;
* or by a combination of the two.
Twinning Associations can draw on the expertise of the community at large, but whether an international partnership is being coordinated by the local authority or a community twinning group, there are many functions that need to be addressed.
* Coordination and liaison: including the first point of contact for the overseas partner.
* Strategy: planning a schedule of activities, including programmes for individual exchanges and events.
* Public relations: keeping everyone informed, promoting and publicising the link through newsletters, websites, exhibitions etc and handling the media.
* Financial management.
* Funding: raising funds, securing sponsorship and making grant applications.
* Travel: coordinating transport, visas etc.
* Membership: managing existingnew members and extending community involvement.
* Youth: coordinating school and youth activities.
* Accomodation: organising accommodation and liaising with host families.
It is vital that all officers, members and others funded from the public purse who take part in international partnerships and twinning link activities abide by high standards of conduct at all times.
Members and local authority employees are subject to individual local authority codes of conduct, which form part of their terms and conditions. These apply whenever the individual is undertaking official duties.
Local authorities should ensure that there is a procedure in place to demonstrate that careful consideration has been given to every financial transaction, particularly in the case of expenditure relating to travel and accommodation. For officer and member participation, there should be a process to explain the reasons for the visit/meeting and the benefits to be gained.
Local authorities need to decide their policy for expenditure relating to overseas partnerships and twinning links. For example, whether all travel should be economy class, or whether business class travel is acceptable and, if so, subject to what rules. Local authorities need to set and follow rules and be willing to justify expenditure.
Where it is necessary to use hotels, local authorities need to have a policy on the type and price range to be used. Within Europe , there is usually a reasonable choice of mid-range hotels, but in some developing countries the only realistic option may be a relatively expensive 'western style' hotel. The authority also needs to be clear about what, if any, incidental expenditure on hotel bills will be met.
Occasionally, the issue arises about a member on official duty wishing to be accompanied by spouse or partner who has no formal role. In this case, the councillor should be responsible for all the additional costs that arise, however minor.
Meals and subsistence
Local authorities may pay an agreed sum for subsistence where this is not covered by the host authority, or reimburse expenditure for meals and refreshments. It may be useful to give general guidance on the financial limits, though costs do vary greatly between towns and countries.
In any formal visit to another country, there is usually some hospitality, in the form of receptions, meals etc. If this is given by a public sector body, no difficulties arise. However, if given by a private company, this may need to be declared in the authority's register of hospitality. If in doubt, seek guidance from the authority's Chief Executive or Solicitor.
In many cultures, giving or exchanging gifts is not only normal but required. Whilst gifts of purely nominal value may be kept by the recipient, any more substantial or valuable ones should, on return, be given to the authority. All gifts should be recorded in the authority's register of gifts and hospitality.
You should consider, before any visit, whether to take gifts to the key people, especially at any main formal reception. Once the authority's code of conduct has been agreed, the values above which gifts should be registered or given to the authority will be specified.
Grants for external groups
If local authorities wish to make grants either to individual projects or exchanges, or to twinning associations, there should be a form of accountability throughout the process, from the initial application stage to monitoring activities and outcomes. Successful organisation can be asked to provide a regular report on how the finances have been used and how they have benefited the community.
This is the sixth of a series of articles about twinning published by the Local Government Association (LGA) on their website. The original can be found here Copyright in this article belongs to the Euoropean and International Division of the Local Government Association who have very kindly given us permission to use it, for which we thank them.