Local Partnerships (Towns)


Local Partnerships (Towns)

The Council-to-Council partnerships between towns and cities, generally known as “Twinning” in English, has been a feature of civic life ever since the post-war period.

They were designed to prevent a further war in Europe by promoting peace and reconciliation between former enemies. Other forms of partnership between whole regions, and in border areas, have been a further recent development.

There are over a thousand such relationships in the UK with their counterparts in the EU alone, with many being “twinned” with multiple partners. All the success factors which apply to informal partnerships and those between educational establishments apply to Council-to-Council partnerships.

This is because, apart from elected representatives such as Councillors, numerous other individuals and organisations may be involved in the relationship. The larger city and regional partnerships may well also be driven by commercial objectives and involve business representatives and employers. Usually, official funding and permanent staff are required for these relationships to operate successfully.


Available Guides

For a useful guide to the “do’s” and “don’ts” of these formal partnerships, refer to “Take your Partners”, a handbook by the now-disbanded Local Government International Bureau authored by Susan Handley, whose advice and prescriptions are still valid today (click here).

Another guide is provided by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) and its website (http:www.twinning.org).

The British German Association has also produced an excellent up-to-date guide which can be accessed on this page.

Here are some examples of successful Council to Council Partnerships. Further information can be found on the relevant websites for each partnership.

  • Bath/Alkmaar/Aix-en-Provence/Braunshweig/Kaposvar (link)
  • Bristol/Bordeaux/Hannover (link)
  • Bromsgrove/Gronau/St Saveur Landeline (link)
  • Glasgow/Turin/Nuremberg/Marseille (link)
  • Leeds/Brno/Dortmund/Lille (link)
  • Liverpool/Cologne/Dublin/Odessa (link)
  • Richmond/Konstanz/Fontainebleau (link)
  • York/Dijon/Munster (link)

New forms of formal partnership have emerged in recent years between the UK and mainland Europe.  These involve whole metropolitan regions and border regions. 

Examples include the partnership agreement signed in 2021 between Greater Manchester and the Metropolitan Area of the Ruhr in Germany.  Under the agreement the two metropolitan regions aim to deepen co-operation and share best practice in areas including climate change, adaptation and mitigation; sustainable mobility and transport; digitisation and cybersecurity; innovation and research; and regional devolution. In addition to strengthening business and trade links, there will also be efforts to strengthen civic, cultural and educational connections, including the potential for youth exchanges.  For further information visit this page.

Another example is the Straits Committee, launched in 2020, by Kent County Council and local authorities in four countries bordering the Dover Strait area and the North Sea, including: the Département du Nord and the Département du Pas-de-Calais (France), the Province of West Flanders and the Province of East Flanders (Belgium), and the Province of Zeeland (the Netherlands). 

This body describes itself as “a multilateral forum for dialogue, providing a flexible framework for its members to work together within the boundaries of their responsibilities, and for extending co-operation to local stakeholders such as from the voluntary sector, education or the world of business. The member authorities meet up to four times a year at the Straits Executive Committee where each authority is represented by an elected official.” For further details visit this page.

There is a very nice map on the Straits Committee pages of the Kent County Council link (above) which I would like to use at this point.  I am sending it to you in the attached file.

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