Music service set to be axed

By Emily Pearce

Friday, April 25, 2014

 

THE Isle of Wight Music Service, a lifeline for young musicians over more than three decades, looks set to be axed this summer.

Although hugely valued by schools, students and parents, the Isle of Wight Council, which employs 26 music service staff, said it could no longer afford to underwrite the service's losses, predicted to reach £200,000 next year.

The music service is lead partner in the Island's Music Education Hub, which is funded through Arts Council England (ACE).

According to ACE, the hub, which also comprises schools, community groups and ensembles, has failed to engage its partners or develop a vibrant and sustainable business plan.

ACE has warned the hub — which received £135,000 in funding for the 2014/15 financial year, cut from £400,000 two years ago — must be radically overhauled if it is to secure funding beyond next March.

A council report, published today (Friday) is due to go before the executive next month.

It recommends closing the service from August 31 and remodelling the hub to better meet ACE's requirements that every child aged between five and 18 has the opportunity to sing, learn a musical instrument and play in an ensemble or choir.

It would result in job losses for the council-employed staff, costing the authority £207,757 in redundancy and pension payments.

According to the report, there is no statutory duty for the council to provide a music service.

It is proposed the new-look hub would be run under new management arrangements, with a new chair — who has already been appointed.

Executive member for children’s services and education Cllr Richard Priest said he was confident the remodelled hub could establish a sustainable, thriving music offer.

"People on the Island are clearly very passionate about music and the positive impact it has on young people’s personal development. We think there is a real opportunity for the hub to develop into something far richer than the current offer. I believe the proposals are the start of very exciting times for musicians on our Island, and will provide a viable and sustainable way forward.

"I appreciate the hard work and dedication music service staff have put into their fantastic support to Island children over the years," he said.

Created two years ago following drastic funding cuts to the music service, the hub provides tuition to more than 2,600 schoolchildren every week, and around 550 children play in bands and ensembles, yet a consultation on its future attracted just 110 responses.

The plans will go before the executive on May 6.

Reporter: emilyp@iwcpmail.co.uk

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