Council plans to cut funding for popular MK Music Service

The Milton Keynes Music Service performing in a city school
The Milton Keynes Music Service performing in a city school

A service that has taught tens of thousands of city children to play musical instruments is set to lose its council funding of more than £250,000 a year.

Milton Keynes Music Service will be the subject of a major ‘shake-up’ and many of its tutors will face redundancy, the ruling Tory Cabinet has proposed.

But the facility will continue to be delivered on a more self-sufficient basis, possibly with children paying tutors employed directly by city schools, said Cabinet education boss Andy Dransfield this week.

“We plan to do with the Milton Keynes Music Service exactly what we did with the libraries and nurseries. They will still run, but they will run more efficiently and allow us, the council, to make savings,” he told the Citizen.

Mr Dransfield admits: “I realise there will be an uproar about this. But this council cannot afford to run the Rolls Royce of services any more.”

He said it was believed some music service staff were on full time contracts but not working full time hours.

“One way to avoid such inefficiencies would be to draft in the people to manage the adult education service to run the music service too,” he suggested.

Some 3,000 children use the music service and around a third of them play in the city’s youth orchestra, string orchestra or other smaller groups.

One young member told the Citizen: “For some of us like me who are just as keen at 16 as we were at six when we joined, Friday evenings and Saturday mornings at the music service are the highlights of our week.”

Last year, however, a council audit investigation found the service was in chaos and a large number of instruments – believed to be up to 600 – was missing.

The report stated: “Some aspects of the (music) service are inadequately controlled with major areas of weakness and risk.”

It added: “There is a risk of loss, fraud, impropriety and/or damage to reputation.”

A spokesman for the council said: “Milton Keynes Council is continuing its work to bring together the Music Service and Adult Continuing Education (ACE) to create an integrated community learning service that is both financially self supporting and sustainable.

“A staged removal over three years of financial support from the council was agreed as part of the 2013/14 budget in response to the reduction in funding received from the Government.

“Progress has been made over the last six months to identify efficiencies and reduce costs with a current focus on the staffing structure.

“Proposals include a new, smaller senior management team structure and greater use of self employed tutors to ensure that we continue to provide a flexible and affordable service for parents, schools and other customers in the future.

“We are currently consulting with staff on a new structure. The staff consultation period closes in mid-November.

“The council remains committed to finding a way to ensure that the high quality education and tuition services provided by the Music Service and ACE can continue.”