Twin town racism row

A FYLDE councillor has been branded "racist" after voicing opposition to plans to twin Lytham and St Annes with a town in Japan.

Coun Barbara Pagett is furious at the proposal by Lytham St Annes Twinning Association to form a link with the town of Hayashima.

In a widely circulated email, she urged backers of the scheme to be "sensitive to the feelings of those with longer memories".

Coun Pagett wrote: "I realise that by voicing my opinion in public regarding twinning that I lay myself open to being labelled bigot or racist by some people. However, I do have the right to say what I think and I'm neither being racist nor bigoted.

"It might be 63 years since the theatre of operations in the Far East during the Second World War ended, but I believe it's not yet long to forget what happened there.

"I would urge those promoting twinning with a Japanese town to sensitive to the feelings of those with longer memories."

She said her stance stemmed from the experience of a family friend who she claims was tortured in Burma by the Japanese.

Coun Pagett added: "In some years time, will the families and friends of those serving in present conflicts want to twin with somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan? I think not."

But Coun Barbara MacKenzie, chairman of the Lytham St Annes Twinning Association, who recently visited Hiyashima with her husband and has hosted the town's mayor in St Annes, said the claims made her "ashamed to be British".

"It's ridiculous," she said. "The people in Japan made my husband and I so welcome and are so polite, friendly and lovely.

"They would like students to be able to come over and get a taste of English culture as well has having the chance to speak with people who have English as their first language to help their studies.

"I didn't realise there would be such opposition and to be honest it makes me ashamed to be British.

"I think it's un-Christian, racist and if Britain was to fall out with every country they had ever been at war with we would not be friends with any countries."

Coun MacKenzie pointed out St Annes is already twinned with Werne in Germany.

Coun Susan Fazackerley, cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said: "The opinion provided by the councillor about the proposal for St Annes is a personal opinion and does not represent the opinion of Fylde Council."

The proposals are at a very early stage. The Lytham St Annes Twinning Association is in initial discussions with their opposites in Hayashima.