East Lothian Labour councillors have defended the introduction of fees for instrumental music tuition, which they say are necessary due to unprecedented cuts to the Council’s budget from the SNP Scottish Government.
They have also reacted angrily to SNP attempts to make political capital out of the issue when the charges are only being introduced because of cuts made by their party at Holyrood. Just before last year’s local elections, Dave Berry, the former SNP leader of East Lothian Council, proposed that the full cost of music tuition should be met by charges.
The Labour Group has also pointed out that a majority of other Scottish local authorities, including several with SNP-led administrations, already charge for music tuition, with some charging far higher fees than those proposed here in East Lothian. For example, SNP-led Clackmannanshire Council is proposing the highest fees in the country at £524.
Labour’s Education Spokesperson Cllr Shamin Akhtar said:
“Introducing fees for music tuition is not something the Labour Group wants to do, but East Lothian Council has experienced an unprecedented reduction in its budget from the SNP Government, with cuts of £25million over the last five years, and at least £8million more to come over the next three.
“These huge cuts have made the introduction of more charges for non-statutory council services inevitable and it is pure hypocrisy from SNP councillors to say they oppose them. The majority of other Scottish local authorities already charge for music tuition, with some, including those led by SNP councillors, charging far more than the figure agreed here.
“We believe that, as with the recent decision on child burial charges, the Scottish Government should now step up and fund music tuition nationally, removing the need for local authorities to charge. This would go some way to recognising the impact of the Government's significant and sustained cuts to councils.
“In the meantime, we have ensured that the proposals drawn up by the Council's officials will not penalise those from families on the lowest incomes and that a dedicated bursary scheme is in place to help those who need support to meet the fees. We have also committed to keep the new scheme under review and carefully monitor future access to music tuition.”