Controversial plans to axe the funding of Wrexham’s school music service have been reined in slightly, with it stressed by the council leader the service is not being stopped, just reduced.
In October 2017 Wrexham.com reported that as part of Wrexham Council’s Difficult Decisions consultation, proposals had been been put forward to cut the “comprehensive music service” currently accessed by schools across the county borough.
At present the Wrexham Council provides the music service to schools, which includes peripatetic instrument tuition (i.e. tutors visiting different schools), facilitating orchestras and youth choirs to a number of pupils.
This service operates on hours being purchased by schools, with the number of additional hours being bought varying in each individual school.
During a lifelong learning scrutiny meeting in December 2017 a breakdown of the number of students who access the music service across Wrexham was provided – with 1500 pupils across the county borough receiving music tuition. The meeting was told this equates to 7.6% of Wrexham’s school population of 19,500.
However as part of the recent Difficult Decisions consultation, it had been proposed that as of September 2018, Wrexham Council would stop funding the service to help generate savings of around £300,000.
The proposal had been put forward as part of the £13 million of potential budget savings outlined by the local authority.
During the December scrutiny meeting the proposal was criticised by some committee members, with one describing the lack of alternative options as “ridiculous”.
Such frustration over the proposed service cut was seen outside the Guildhall as well, with nearly 16,000 people signing an online petition calling on Wrexham Council to rethink its plans.
Today it was confirmed that while plans to cut the service will go ahead, a budget of £50,000 will be “available from 1 April 2019 to mitigate the impact of the music service changes”
Such a suggestion was put forward by Cllr Beverley Parry-Jones in December’s scrutiny meeting, who called for the cuts to go ahead, but a discretionary ‘bursary’ of £50,000 to be implemented to protect vulnerable children in education.
Despite the £50,000 figure being put aside to help mitigate the changes to the service, Wrexham.com were told today that the figure is ‘not a bursary’.
Speaking this morning, Council Leader Mark Pritchard said that they would not be taking the full budget away for the service, however the funding would be reduced to a £50k ‘pot’ that could be flexible to around £60k a year if required.
He said: “It will be means tested and will help children that come from deprived areas, or are in financially difficult circumstances. We have not taken the service away, we are keeping it, but reducing funding.”
The full budget documents ahead of Executive Board meeting can be found here on the Council website.
As with other budget proposals, this is still formally a suggested option however will likely have full Executive Board support next week meaning it will then be taken forward to Full Council. That is the point where all Councillors get to have their say on their plans, and get to vote – assuming they attend.
The Executive Board meeting is on Tuesday starting at 10am, and will be webcast. The Full Council meeting is on Wednesday, 21st February, at 4pm and will also be webcast.
Related stories today on the new budget proposals include…
– Wrexham Council Tax proposed to rise by 3.9% to help offset impact of cuts
– “We have listened” – Bin changes & £4 a day Work Opportunities ‘wage’ cuts scrapped in budget proposals
– Cuts to school music service toned down with £50k “means tested pot of money” to provide some services
– Schools budget proposed to get 1.4% increase rather than 0% – Letters from schools reveal despair at original plans
– Plans to cut Council PCSO funding half shelved – Wrexham remains ‘only authority to fund them in North Wales’