COUNCILLORS who came under fire for trying to forge links with China have confirmed they paid for a trip there themselves.

Clive Butchins and Sandra Parnell all visited Huainan, which has been twinned with Borehamwood & Elstree, last month.

But despite confirmation that all delegates paid their own expenses and travel gifts, some have been left intrigued as to why the link between the two cities exists in the first place.

Resident Lisa Hunter said: “I just don’t see any benefit. It was met with opposition from a lot of people at the time.

“This idea was raised maybe four years ago but earlier this year all of a sudden it got rushed through.”

Huainan has a population of more than two million people and the deal to link the cities was finalised earlier this year.

People objected because they did not believe it would benefit Borehamwood.

Cllr Strack says that all discussions took place at town council meetings and that minutes were reported to the general management committee (GMC).

“These were public meetings which anyone could come to. There is nothing mysterious about this.

Cllr Strack said that the Foreign Office had congratulated the delegates “in their efforts to bring the UK and China closer together, strengthening links that already exist.”

She also added that the town council had the full support of Conservative leader of Hertsmere Council Cllr Morris Bright and Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden.

Mr Dowden says it is in “the interests” of our cities to maintain strong links at every level.

Cllr Strack added: “We believe this link with China could bring all sorts of benefits to our town.

“Huainan has its own television and film studios like our Elstree Studios whilst there’s also a great opportunity for schools to connect with the possibility of exchange trips. Wait and see.”

But Cowley Hill councillor Michelle Vince disagrees.

She said: “When you have schools providing breakfast for children so they don’t go hungry, there’s no way parents can afford these trips.”