UP TO £5m will be slashed from education grants that fund music and the performing arts, in new cuts to hit Hampshire next year.
Protests – from everyone from town hall leaders to cellist Julian Lloyd Webber – have failed to reverse a £200m reduction to the education services grant (ESG).
The decision means Southampton City Council will lose up to £590,000 in 2015-16, although the exact sums have yet to be announced.
And Hampshire County Council is expected to lose around £3.76m next year, with £380,000 set to disappear from the Isle of Wight’s grant.
Councillor Dan Jeffery, Southampton’s Cabinet member for education, said the council was prepared for the blow, but admitted: “This is a significant and regrettable loss of funding.”
Mr Lloyd Webber had branded the proposal “crazy”, warning that cash-strapped local authorities were already struggling to provide music education to pupils.
The grants pay for pupil support and extra-curricular activities, including clothing, outdoor education, visual and performing arts and music education.
Mr Lloyd Webber said: “We really need to rise above this ‘will we get funding this year, will it come next year’. It should be taken as read that our children learn music.”
And the Local Government Association (LGA) protested that the move would hit efforts to turn around underperforming schools, because the ESG also funds improvement services.
The ESG will be cut from £113 for each pupil at a local authority school to £87, MPs were told in a blizzard of “last day” statements before they left Westminster for the summer.
Academies – which fund the services themselves – will have their budgets “protected” for a number of years, before the ESG falls into line.
Schools minister David Laws admitted the cuts would be “challenging”, but added: “We have had to make some tough decisions.”
Mr Laws said the Government was spending £390m on music education between 2012 and 2016, channelled into 123 “music hubs”.
In 2013-14, 52 local authorities had planned to spend less than their allocated ESG, he said – proving the cuts were manageable.
Cllr Jeffery suggested Southampton’s loss would be about £430,000, less than the figures given to the Daily Echo.
He said: “Although this is a significant and regrettable loss of funding, we are fully prepared. I pay tribute to our council officers who diligently work to keep our services going at a time when the Government’s austerity programme is biting deeply into our budgets.”