Music lessons for young people across East Sussex have been spared from cuts after an outcry from the public.
East Sussex County Council says it has ‘identified further savings’ after threatening to remove funding for the music service in a bid earlier this year for the cash-strapped authority to save £180,000.
Many people were outraged at the news, announced in a consultation, and took to Eastbourne seafront for a musical protest.
But a report to be presented next week to the lead member for education, Cllr Bob Standley, is said to have identified additional full-year savings of more than £84,000 from voluntary requests for redundancy and reduced hours, among other efficiencies.
Along with previously identified savings, including a management and administration restructure and reduction in the number of teaching weeks, it means the service is now able to deliver a balanced budget.
Stuart Gallimore, director of children’s services, said, “We are grateful to the support shown for the service by the level of response to the public consultation.
“We fully recognise the value of the music service, and are delighted that we have been able to find the additional savings needed to prevent the closure of the instrumental teaching part of the service.
“We knew the restructuring of the service and other efficiencies would help to achieve some of the savings required, but additional savings have been identified that could not have been factored in before the public consultation launched.
“This means it will not be necessary to close the instrumental part of the music service in September 2019, as originally proposed. It also gives us time to properly explore sustainable long-term options for the service which have come forward during the public consultation.”
With the budget shortfall addressed through a reduction in staffing costs and other efficiency savings, the lead member will be asked to approve further work on identifying sustainable future business models for the service.
Mr Gallimore said, “While our priority has been addressing the budget shortfall, it is vital that we consider longer-term options that will make the music service financially sustainable without a reliance on county council resources.
“We want to explore whether there are opportunities to merge with another music service to create improved opportunities for young people and a more efficient service.
“We are pleased East Sussex Music will be able to continue to offer a wide range of musical opportunities for children and young people, and hope that further work will future-proof the much-valued service.”
Responding to the news, Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Stephen Lloyd said, “I am absolutely delighted East Sussex County Council have made the right decision to not axe the instrument music lessons from ESMS. For many months now, I and others have been lobbying for them to row back from their initial proposal to cut this much-loved and vital service.
“I know many of the staff were convinced money could be saved whilst retaining the musical instrument service, they and I were non-plussed why it appeared that County Hall wouldn’t listen to the staff, and seemed intent on closure. I wrote only a few weeks ago, yet again, urging Cllr Bob Standley, the Cabinet Lead, to drop his and the Senior Officer’s apparent opposition to the proposals put forward by his own staff.
“I am pleased that he, and his Tory colleagues, have listened to reason and to the many thousands of members of the public who’ve begged the County Council not to shut such a loved service.”
The lead member will receive an update on the music service at his meeting on Friday, September 14. The full report can be found here.
For more information about music opportunities for young people provided by East Sussex Music, visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/music