Cash rise claims strike a sour note
Political spat over money for children’s music tuition
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