Update on the future of Central Bedfordshire Music Service

Imagine you take over a company making widgets. The typical market price for widgets is £50. You have many customers who buy a widget every few months at your selling price of £40. The problem is it is costing you £65 to make your widgets. After a business review, you decide to increase your selling price to £65, you give your customer base a couple of weeks to cancel their regular purchase or accept the price rise.

The obvious outcome, is that your customers will take their business elsewhere, rather than paying over the market price for your goods.

What has this to do with Central Bedfordshire Music Service? Well, this is the approach they have taken with the music fees. In most businesses, the review would conclude that it is costing too much to produce the widget and cost cutting exercises would be introduced to lower the manufacturing cost. That way, you can still sell at a competitive price and still make a profit. However, Central Bedfordshire have looked at the cost of providing the service and concluded that they had to increase the fees 69% to cover the costs.

Jo and I attended a stakeholder meeting tonight hosted by Central Bedfordshire to discuss the future shape of the music service. It was personally very disappointing to see how ill prepared they are to carry the music service forward. The questions that we, as groups, were asked to answer seemed to focus on what does a music service need to deliver and does anyone have any idea where to get any funds from.

There seemed to be no comprehension that putting up the fees the amount that they have would cause most of the people to stop using the service. The meeting was well attended by many people involved in all aspects of the music service and the consensus was that it was highly likely over 90% of people would stop using the service. Many had already cancelled lessons at their schools.

Other points were raised:

  • The disruption to childrens’ instrument lessons the price rises causes will be phenomenal.
  • Children in the middle of preparing for exams and then not being able to continue having lessons (or even have an instrument to practice on if it is a music service instrument).
  • Schools not able to arrange alternate provision if the music service are still providing lessons in the instrument.
  • Peripatetic teachers uncertain about their future.
  • What will happen to all the instruments, will they just end up in storage.
  • Will there actually be a music service providing the 4 tiers of provision by the time it comes to apply for funding as described in the Henley report.

Because the music service is so important to us, all of this is very frustrating and caused a lot of controlled anger in the discussion at the end of the meeting. Another really frustrating thing, is there are no answers to the obvious questions that had to be asked – they are still being worked out with legal or HR or waiting for further input. Basically the bomb has been dropped, but no-one had considered the implications.

There is an on-line music consultation questionnaire by Central Bedfordshire Council from Tuesday 15th March to Sunday 27th March


Please provide your feedback, I’m not sure what it will achieve as I personally believe the damage has been done, but I hope I’m wrong.

Following the consultation, the council will deliberate on the results and sometime , probably around May, we will find out the future shape of the music service, including whether the music centres will close.


Edit: I have also posted about this on the Dunstable Music Centre website http://www.dunstablemusiccentre.co.uk/2011/03/17/stakeholder-meeting-15th-march-2011

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