Music teachers employed by Cornwall Council have been axed and forced to become self employed as the authority struggles to make deep financial cuts.
Members of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet have confirmed that music teachers would move from being directly employed by the Council to being self employed and registered with the Council as approved to provide music tuition.
The council says that the music tuition service, one of three strands of the wider Cornwall Music Service, does not generate enough income to meet its costs, resulting in the Council being forced to provide an annual subsidy of between £200,000 and £300,000.
With a spokesman saying that: "While Members recognise the importance of music to children and schools and want to ensure that there is a sustainable service which provides access to music tuition for children in Cornwall, the need to find savings of £196m over the next four years means that the Council can no longer afford to provide this level of subsidy without cutting other services."
The cabinet voted in May to set up the "brokerage model" to deliver music tuition. Although a number of other models had been considered by the council at this time, including an improved in house model, these were not financially sustainable or cost neutral.
However, following the decision by the Cabinet to implement the new model by January 1, 2015, Members agreed that any further proposals which came forward during the formal negotiations with staff and unions which were found to be financially and legally sound could be brought back for further consideration.
Members were given details of two alternative models:
1) to make local amendments to the terms and conditions of the teachers to reduce costs.
2) to move staff contracts to a common pay scale.
Members were told that while model one would see the annual deficit initially reduced to around £118,979, this did not take into account local and national pay progressions which would increase costs over time. As a result the model did not resolve the current overspend or provide for a financially viable and sustainable future for the service.
In the case of model two, the financial projections relied on significant changes to the terms and conditions of the teachers which were unlikely to be supported by the main teaching unions and could lead to the risk of legal challenges.
It was also based on increase in fees to generate income which would be difficult to implement and failed to take on going inflationary pressures into account. As a result the cabinet was "unable to support the proposal".
“We said in May that we would consider alternative proposals if they were both legally sound and financially viable ” said Andrew Wallis.
“Unfortunately, despite extensive consultation, neither of the two alternatives which have been put forward today meet this criteria. This means that we will now be going ahead with implementing the brokerage model which is financially sustainable and, if there is sufficient take up from music tutors and schools, will continue to provide access to music tuition cross Cornwall.
"However the meeting also heard that positive discussions had been held with a group representing a number of the music teachers currently employed by the Council who were interested in setting up a trust to deliver the service.
“We have held an initial meeting with the group and are happy to hold further discussions to see if there is any other support we can give to them” said Andrew Wallis.
“As we said earlier we want to see the provision of a high quality music tuition service in Cornwall but we are unable to continue to subsidise it at a time of budget cuts. “
The remaining two strands – Music Hub and the Music Therapy service - are not affected by this decision.