Norfolk schools music service facing cuts amid £700k deficit
A council plans to make cuts to its schools music service in a bid to reverse a £700,000 budget deficit.
Conservative-led Norfolk County Council wants to halve the number of tutors it provides - and increase the cost of lessons to parents by almost a fifth.
It cites "unsustainably low" tuition prices, staffing and travel costs for the reasons the service runs at a loss.
The council said the changes would "reduce the overspend and ensure more children can learn an instrument".
Labour councillor Mike Smith-Clare called the changes "more cruel, calculated cuts".
"For so many young people, music is an opportunity not just to learn, but to express themselves. To cut that, it represents cutting a lifeline," he said.
Tutors would now be expected to retrain to teach multiple instruments and work in specific areas to reduce travel times, the council said.
There will be a focus on "whole class" and "group" tuition - to ensure schools and low-income families "do not miss out", the council added.
'Best use' of money
However, the cost of tuition to parents would increase from £34 per hour to £40 per hour, while tutor numbers in the county will drop from 44 to 21.
John Fisher, of Norfolk County Council Children's Services, said the changes mean "we make the best use of the money we have".
"We have a fantastic music service in Norfolk and we want to make sure that continues, so that our children can enjoy the many benefits of learning an instrument - just as my own children did," he said.
"All pupils will still be able to hire an instrument free of charge."
Pupils eligible for free school meals will continue to receive subsidised tuition - and lessons will be free for children in care.
The council is currently consulting staff on the proposed changes, which would come into effect in September.