WOKING could be set to gain a new twin town in Brazil, Russia, India, China or South Africa – known collectively as BRICS – as a result of a campaign by a local councillor.
At a meeting of Woking Borough Council last Thursday (December 4), councillors debated a Notice of Motion by Carl Thomson, Councillor for Mount Hermon East, which called on the local authority to open negotiations with a similar sized town in the developing world to help promote business links and inward investment into the borough.
Speaking during the debate, Cllr Thomson argued that the council’s existing twinning arrangements with Holland, France and Germany worked rather well, but they were very symptomatic of an outdated view of the world.
He said: “We are living through a massive shift in economic power as the BRICS nations led by China and India emerge as major manufacturers and service providers.”
“These changes could destroy businesses and jobs if we have insufficient workforce skills, commercial knowledge and links with the emerging markets which are set to dominate the global economy in the next few years.”
Cllr Thomson said that businesses wanted better connections with the developing world and noted that the Prime Minister had recently said Britain had to massively increase its trade with China and India if it was to avoid another recession similar to that seen in 2008/09.
The proposal received support from other councillors, with Byfleet Councillor Anne Roberts saying: “Woking is a multicultural society and many of our residents have worldwide connections. We could establish links with BRICS countries on a technical and business case which would be beneficial to the borough.”
Councillor for Goldsworth East, Rizwan Shah, said: “The economics of the world are changing and we need to change with it.”
The council will now establish a task group which will carry out a public consultation to ascertain residents’ views on the subject and understand more about what countries businesses in Woking would like to build partnerships with.
They will then open discussions directly with municipalities in the five BRICS countries, and will make a presentation to councillors later in the year when a decision will be made on whether to proceed with the project and establish formal links with one of the towns identified.
Responding to concerns about the costs involved in town twinning, Cllr Thomson said that the work of the task group would require no significant expenditure or officer time.
He said: “One thing we need to look at is whether we can do these international partnerships cheaper and most cost effectively, and in a way which brings tangible economic benefits to Woking residents.”