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Councillors question plan to privatise music service
PLANS to outsource the county’s music service to a private company have been questioned by a leading group of councillors.
The county council’s new education scrutiny committee has asked the cabinet running the authority to report back on plans to potentially outsource £25m of back office support.
In July, the cabinet agreed to investigate whether or not the council could save money by letting other companies run the county music service, adult education and some human resources and IT services.
The cabinet is next due to discuss the plans on October 15, but some councillors have raised concerns.
Labour councillor and shadow deputy leader John Christie, right, said: “In examining this as a scrutiny committee, we need full information on both sides on what the proposals are.
“We have to be absolutely clear on what the implications are. My concern is, what is the cabinet going to do on October 15 in terms of decision-making and taking this forward? I don’t think we’re in a position where we could have an input into decision-making. I want an opportunity to scrutinise this properly.”
He also criticised the way the proposal had been handled, and said schools should have been consulted at an earlier stage. He said: “Even if you’re making a decision in principle, I think schools should have been involved at an earlier stage.”
Committee chairman Lynda Atkins also raised concerns.
She said: “The way we have these meetings timetabled, by the time we next meet, cabinet will have made its decision.”
Concerns have been raised by school leaders and music teachers about the changes, which could put up to 500 jobs at risk.
Windmill Primary School headteacher Lynn Knapp said: “I do worry about it, because at the moment we know what we’re getting – good quality teachers.
“They also look after the admin side, all the CRB checks. If we then have to start doing all that ourselves, it’s going to be a huge burden on the school.”
The music service costs £2.5m a year to run, with £360,000 of that budget coming from the county council and the rest coming from other organisations.
It employs 94 members of staff, 76 of whom are teachers, and many of whom work part-time.
The council is also considering outsourcing outdoor learning centres in the county, which currently cost £1.7m to run.
But most of the services being considered as part of the plans relate to adult education, human resources and IT.
Council deputy leader Rodney Rose, who is presiding over the changes, said the committee would have another opportunity to discuss the plans with the full facts to hand.
He said: “I doubt any decisions will be made at the October meeting.
“I think the two factors involved at the moment are making sure we’ve got it right and not making a decision until the schools are on board, but also we must not leave staff hanging in the air.
“Once we say we’re going to be outsourcing, everybody in those areas is going to fear their futures may change.”
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