A PROPOSAL to withdraw financial support for a music service for children across Gwent has been made with a “very, heavy heart”.
But Councillor Martyn Groucutt, who is responsible for education on Labour run Monmouthshire County Council, said it is the last of four local authorities to continue to provide a direct subsidy to the Gwent Music Service. Despite the cut it will continue to teach youngsters in schools to play musical instruments and to sing.
As part of Monmouthshire council’s upcoming budget, which includes cuts and savings totalling £11.4 million, it is proposed to save £100,000 by axing the subsidy to the service which has operated for more than 50 years and currently teaches more than 8,000 pupils in schools in Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent.
The cost of lessons varies from school to school but can range from £65 a term for group weekly sessions to £195 a term for weekly 30 minute lessons.
Asked what discussions had taken place with the Newport-based service and about the impact on its future Cllr Groucutt replied: “Personally it was with a very heavy heart we went to cutting £100,000 to the music service, in reality we were the last authority to support it in the way we have been able to.”
But he said the council will maintain a hardship fund so parents of children who may not be able to afford lessons can apply, through their school, for support so their children can still benefit from lessons.
Cllr Groucutt said a council officer had held discussions with Gwent Music: “It probably wasn’t the happiest discussion but it was understood where it was coming from by the head of the service.”
At Monmouthshire council’s people scrutiny committee Conservative councillor for Mitchell Troy and Trellech, Jayne McKenna, asked the value of the hardship fund and the criteria for accessing it and if it is sufficient to ensure there is support for those who need it.
Council officer Nikki Wellington said the fund is worth £9,000 annually and has been in place for a number of years and operated by Gwent Music which works with schools to identify pupils who may qualify for support.
She said: “It is not only available to children on free school meals as we wanted to include low income families.”
She said the fund is reviewed every year to check it is sufficient to support those applying and said she would supply Cllr McKenna with information on how many successful applicantions there are.
Pen y Fal councillor Maureen Powell, who raised the future of the service, which she said already conducts its own fundraising, welcomed confirmation the service will continue.
The Conservative said: “I’m glad about that. It’s very important as children involved in music, and sport, tend to have such an interest they are less likely to get in trouble when they are older. An interest in music is wonderful and they go on from there.”