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Council accused over music service changes

By West Briton  |  Posted: May 15, 2014

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TEACHING unions have accused Cornwall Council of not following proper procedure over plans to overhaul its music tuition service.

Last week the council's Cabinet voted to move towards a broker model whereby it would no longer directly employ music teachers, who would instead operate from a pool administered by the council.

Changes are being made to the Cornwall Music Tuition Service as it was running at a loss; over the past two years it has overspent by £450,000.

During the Cabinet meeting the member for children, schools and families, Councillor Andrew Wallis, said unions had been consulted over the plans and not wanted to "engage" with the council.

However, unions have denied this, saying they had submitted alternative proposals for consideration.

They also said they had been unable to discuss the planned changes with their members because the council had told them the informal meetings it had with union chiefs were private and confidential.

Richard Harris, from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said the council failed to follow proper procedures and suggested officers misled Mr Wallis.

The West Briton has seen letters from the union to the council in April which proposed alternatives aimed at allowing the service to continue in its current format on a reduced scale.

It has also seen a letter from the head of Cornwall Learning, Sharon Longden, to staff in the music service stating that they were aware of the meetings that had taken place – despite union claims that the council had insisted the meetings and all paperwork were strictly private and confidential and not for dissemination.

Union officials also said all correspondence had been sent to all Cabinet members, including Mr Wallis.

Mr Harris said: "I know Councillor Wallis would not have a detailed knowledge of how the teacher trade unions have tried to work with Music Cornwall over the threatened closure of the music service. I'm sure he was simply reporting to the Cabinet what County Hall bureaucrats had told him. They misled him."

Asked about the unions' concerns, Mr Wallis said: "We have followed the correct process on this.

"We have tried to engage with the unions in an informal way as the process says, but the unions have been less than forthcoming on looking at what solutions and options are available."

Mr Wallis said, as agreed by the Cabinet, there would now be a period of formal consultation on the proposals to move to a brokerage service.

He said: "I have said that if someone comes forward with an alternative which is legal and financially sound then I will consider it."

On the claim that unions had been told the discussions were confidential, Mr Wallis said they would have been permitted to share details with their members but not the wider public.

Mr Wallis also denied having seen any correspondence from the unions proposing alternatives to the brokerage model for the service.

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  • Doitdreckley  |  May 20 2014, 8:05PM

    What? The kind of changes of conditions which mean that you are effectively self employed and need to bid for work?

  • Headman  |  May 15 2014, 7:59PM

    What a pity the trades unions spend so much time complaining about processes when they should be exerting every effort to persuade their members to accept some changes to their terms and conditions of service - surely it would be worth the sacrifice by our music teachers to preserve such an outstanding service