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Council could renew special relationship

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: February 19, 2013

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BURTON could be about to resume ties with a city in one of the poorest countries in the world.

The borough council is considering whether to renew its links with the city of Blantyre, in Malawi, which it had a strong relationship with shortly after the turn of the century.

Around ten years ago, when links were at their strongest, the borough council organised various fund-raising campaigns, while the Mail also got on board, helping to convince schools and community groups to send donations to the region.

But over the last few years, contact between the two regions has cooled, with representatives from the southern African city having written to the council to request a resumption of ties.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and often finds itself crippled by famine as well as other issues such as HIV and AIDS.

Representatives from Blantyre have expressed their concern at the lack of contact between the region and is keen on strengthening the ties.

Peter Davies, who represents the borough at Staffordshire County Council, and was mayor of East Staffordshire a decade ago when the links were at their strongest, can see the benefits of the link.

He said: “Personally I would be in favour of maintaining these links with Blantyre, obviously they are not as well of as we are.

“If we can maintain links in Malawi I think it could be a very good thing, we can offer them information, help and advice.”

In 2002, a Mail campaign helped raise thousands of pounds for good causes in the city.

But the council now has to decide whether to continue funding the venture, having also raised concerns at the nation’s recent human rights record.

But with Malawi keen to renew ties, Mr Davies is keen for the council to continue the relationship.

He said: “I suppose the justification for doing it is that we used to do it. The link has fallen by the wayside, but of all the areas we’ve been twinned with, that was the only one outside Europe we had a positive link with.

“It’s a two way thing. We can offer them help and advice and they can inform us what it’s like to live in a poor country. We might grumble about things here, but they are a lot worse off. Personally, I would support strengthening our ties with Blantyre.”

East Staffordshire Borough Council is set to discuss the proposals at its next meeting on February 25.

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