Free school music lessons face axe under council's budget plans

Libraries, Christmas lights and lollipop crossing patrols are also under threat.

Free school music lessons could be scrapped by Midlothian Council in a bid to bridge a budget gap.

The local authority said it had to make savings of £13.87m in 2023/24, rising to a projected £25.94m by 2027/28.

Parents and students are unhappy at the proposal, which was previously suggested in 2019 before the council backed down after public protests.

Dalkeith High School student Guy Ward said learning to play the electric guitar at school improved his academic studies and gave him confidence.

“If it wasn’t for the school lessons, I wouldn’t have found my passion and I would have been quite lost without it,” he said. “It got me through a lot of lockdown.

“It’s quite sad, we’ve gone through this before and fought for it, but it’s just repeating itself.”

Midlothian Council said cutting free tuition would free up £444,000 and priority would be given to supporting those studying for music qualifications in secondary schools.

Other services facing cuts include libraries, which will either close, be run by community volunteers or become self-service with fewer staff, saving £781,000.

Lollipop men and women would be removed from controlled and zebra crossings, funding support for gala days would be stopped and money for Christmas lights would be cut.

Penicuik Recycling Centre would close and funding for a bus service for disabled passengers would be axed.

A public consultation will run until February 8, before councillors vote on the plans on February 21.

Midlothian Council said in a statement: “We want to give people and groups as much opportunity as possible to give us their views.

“Like local authorities across Scotland, we are facing the biggest financial challenge in decades, so the more information we have, the better we can understand the impact these proposals will have on our communities.

“That said, there’s no avoiding some extremely difficult decisions. We don’t want to cut services, but we must, by law, balance our budget.”

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