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Oops! U.K. gets its Newcastles mixed up

/ Source: The Associated Press

The British government has gotten its Newcastles confused. It sent millions of dollars meant for the bustling northern city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the small English market town of Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Some $5.3 million in government money was sent to the wrong Newcastle as a result of an administrative mistake, the Department for Communities and Local Government said Wednesday.

The money was being distributed under a program intended to promote local enterprise, and the mistake has been made two years in a row, the department said.

"This is a regrettable error, and we've taken action to rectify it," a department statement said.

That may not be so easy. The Daily Telegraph reported that Newcastle-under-Lyme is refusing to give the money back.

"We assumed it was in recognition of the work we've done to encourage business," the newspaper quoted borough council leader Simon Tagg as saying in its Thursday edition. "We can't hand over 2 million pounds just like that."

Newcastle-under-Lyme, about 160 miles northwest of London, is known for its venerable market and award-winning floral displays. The town, named for a 12th century castle and the nearby Lyme Forest, has a population of about 75,000.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, some 190 miles farther north, dates at least as far back as Roman times. It grew into an important coal mining and shipbuilding center during the Industrial Revolution and now has 270,000 inhabitants.