Cash rise claims strike a sour note

Po­lit­i­cal spat over money for chil­dren’s mu­sic tuition

West Lothian Courier - - News -

Coun­cil bosses have been ac­cused of mis­lead­ing par­ents who are fight­ing to save free in­stru­men­tal mu­sic tuition for their chil­dren.

SNP MSP Fiona Hys­lop, who rep­re­sents Lin­lith­gow, said West Loth­ian Coun­cil should not be mak­ing cuts to the in­stru­men­tal mu­sic ser­vice that would see youngsters study­ing strings and per­cus­sion lose free in­struc­tion.

She said that far from hav­ing less money, the coun­cil had a “real-terms” cash in­crease and so should not have to make cuts.

How­ever the leader of West Loth­ian Coun­cil, Lawrence Fitz­patrick, fired back, calling on the SNP to re­verse bud­get re­duc­tions to lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

Fiona Hys­lop high­lighted the is­sue of proposed cuts to in­stru­men­tal mu­sic dur­ing oral ques­tions in par­lia­ment.

She said: “Lo­cal gov­ern­ment as a whole in Scot­land has had a real-terms bud­get in­crease.

“West Loth­ian Coun­cil, in par­tic­u­lar, has had a bud­get in­crease. It is shock­ing that a county that has been cham­pi­oned across Scot­land and re­garded as pro­vid­ing some of the best mu­sic tuition would con­tem­plate abol­ish­ing strings and per­cus­sion tuition.

“Af­ter the in­ter­ven­tion of Scot­land’s Com­mis­sioner for Chil­dren and Young Peo­ple, who iden­ti­fied that chil­dren and young peo­ple had not even been con­sulted about pro­vi­sion, the coun­cil is now look­ing at that again. I urge the coun­cil to do so se­ri­ously.

“The is­sue is not just that the rep­u­ta­tion of West Loth­ian Coun­cil as a mu­sic- mak­ing cham­pion is se­verely at risk; it is about op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple in my con­stituency and across West Loth­ian.”

Lawrence Fitz­patrick hit back at these claims, say­ing the In­de­pen­dent Ac­counts Com­mis­sion had re­ported that coun­cils in Scot­land have suf­fered a near 10 per cent real terms cut in their bud­gets over the last eight years and coun­cil ser­vices through­out Scot­land are crumbling un­der the strain.

He con­tin­ued: “West Loth­ian’s fund­ing has not been in­creased in real terms. On the con­trary the 2018/19 set­tle­ment rep­re­sents a flat cash set­tle­ment

“The ad­di­tional fund­ing that was pro­vided to West Loth­ian Coun­cil is nowhere near enough to cover the ad­di­tional costs it faces in de­liv­er­ing ser­vices to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“Gov­ern­ment fund­ing in­cludes 69 per cent of ad­di­tional fund­ing that is ring fenced to de­liver na­tional pri­or­i­ties.

“West Loth­ian coun­cil has no say in how that money is spent.

“In re­al­ity the bud­get gap in West Loth­ian for 2018/19 is £13.9 mil­lion and over the next five years it is es­ti­mated to be £65.3 mil­lion. This is in ad­di­tion to re­duc­tions of £92 mil­lion since 2007/8.

“The cuts faced by ed­u­ca­tion in West Loth­ian in the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year amount to £ 12 mil­lion and as far as pos­si­ble these re­duc­tions are be­ing de­liv­ered from non- teach­ing bud­gets to al­low us to pro­tect teacher num­bers.

“If Fiona Hys­lop is gen­uinely con­cerned about in­stru­men­tal mu­sic ser­vices in West Loth­ian she should con­vince her cab­i­net col­leagues to re­verse the cuts to lo­cal gov­ern­ment fund­ing that are hav­ing such a deeply dam­ag­ing ef­fect on all coun­cil ser­vice ar­eas and the com­mu­nity in West Loth­ian.”

Par­ent Siob­han Wil­liams, who is fight­ing to keep free strings and per­cus­sion tuition, added: “We’re re­ally pleased the is­sue is start­ing to get wider at­ten­tion. We ob­vi­ously don’t want to get into a po­lit­i­cal fight, but I’m pleased to see that Fiona Hys­lop has raised the is­sue in par­lia­ment, par­tic­u­larly the ref­er­ence to the con­cerns from the chil­dren’s com­mis­sioner.”

Bud­get in­crease Fiona Hys­lop

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