Wrexham councillors back cuts to school music services

CREDIT: This story was first seen in BBC News

Controversial cuts to music services and car parking charges for disabled blue badge holders have been backed by councillors in Wrexham, BBC News reports.

The proposals, which could also see council tax rise by 3.9%, have been approved by the council’s executive board.

The local authority needs to save £13m from its budget in the next two years.

Parents and unions had warned schools music service cuts would make musical pursuits “a preserve of the elite”.

The council has proposed scrapping the service in a bid to save £300,000 but said it would make £50,000 available, on a means tested basis, from April 2019.

Music services for schools vary across Wales. Some councils, such as Cardiff, have cut the budget and replaced it with specific funding for music within the broader schools budget.

Lynne Thomas formed Friends of Wrexham Music Service, a group of parents who want to see the service saved.

She said they feared the cuts would mean music would only be accessible “for the elite”.

The head teachers’ union NAHT Cymru and teachers’ union NASUWT Cymru also raised concerns schools do not have the funds to continue this service.

The authority also wants to bring disabled parking charges in line with the usual tariffs in all Wrexham council car parks.

If the proposals go ahead in April, blue badge holders would be given one additional hour beyond the time paid for.

Another measure approved by the executive board was the proposal to introduce a daily £1 charge for visitors to Alyn Waters, Nant Mill and Ty Mawr country parks.

It follows a public consultation on the council’s budget proposals, entitled Difficult Decisions.

Leader of the council Mark Prichard said the executive board had listened to the views expressed by almost 4,000 members of the public during the consultation.

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As a result, he said there would be an increase in the adult social care budget and a 1.48% increase to the schools’ budget.

“Wrexham people support an increase if it protects services,” he said.

But councillors raised a number of concerns with the executive board during a debate which lasted more than an hour and a half.

Plaid Cymru’s councillor Marc Jones said that the proposed cuts to the schools music service were being made at a time when the authority should be “celebrating creative skills”.

Liberal Democrat councillor Alun Jenkins told the committee he had suggested putting council tax up by five per cent to raise enough revenue so that that the proposed cuts would not be needed.

The budget proposals will now go before the full council at a meeting in February.

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