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Dispute over flying foreign flags on Sudbury Town Hall during twinning visits

PUBLISHED: 09:00 28 April 2016 | UPDATED: 16:09 28 April 2016

Sudbury Town Hall.

Sudbury Town Hall.

Archant

A dispute has erupted in a Suffolk town over the tradition of flying the German flag when officials from a twinned town visit.

Some people in Sudbury have complained about the flag being raised over the town hall in what is supposed to be a welcoming gesture for visitors from Hoxter in Germany, twinned with Sudbury since 1980.

The town also flies the respective flags of France and Denmark when visitors come over from its other twinned towns of Clermont and Fredensborg.

However, it is the raising of the German flag which has prompted the concern - and it has now sparked a fierce debate among council officials.

Deputy mayor Sue Ayres said: “The Sudbury Town Twinning Association is asking if we can fly the flags during official town twinning visits but there are some people who are still not happy to see a German flag flying (over Sudbury)... even though it is a long time since the (Second World) War.”

Over the years, dignitaries from the towns have enjoyed numerous exchange visits to Suffolk with everything from continental markets to civic ceremonies held in their honour.

Throughout their stay, it has become customary for the flag of the visiting nation to be flown alongside that of the host nation on the towns’ civic buildings.

But as Sudbury Town Hall only has one flag pole, in the past it has only flown the flag of the visiting nation, which has not gone down well with some local residents.

To keep the peace, the town currently flies the ‘Flag of Europe’ regardless of which nation is visiting. But with the EU Referendum looming, there are doubts as to whether it will still be relevant.

At a meeting of the town council’s leisure and environment committee this week, members held a vote to decide whether they should fly the individual German, French and Danish flags.

Deputy town clerk Jodie Budd said in the past, people had often came into the town hall to question why the German flag was flying.

She added: “Whenever we have the visitors, we currently have the EU flag. But the next visit will be in June which will be after the EU Referendum so if we are out of the EU, what will we do then?”

Committee member Ellen Murphy, who was against displaying the foreign flags, questioned the whole idea of town twinning.

She said: “Twinning seems to be the fashion everywhere but is it cost effective nowadays and how does Sudbury gain from twinning?”

Chairing the committee, the mayor Jack Owen replied: “If you’re asking if we get anything back from it in terms of finance, then the answer is no but in terms of social benefits, then yes, we do.”

His colleague Sarah Page said: “I think we should put the flags up because it shows we are open and friendly towards European countries and we should support the twinning as it’s a good thing for everyone.”

The committee voted 3 to 2 to allow the flags to be flown but the decision still has to be ratified by the full council.


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