Herts Music Service eyes charitable status amid funding cuts

PUBLISHED: 16:00 06 May 2018

Herts Music Service provides tuition to 28,000 children across Hertfordshire. Picture: ARCHANT\SingerA

Herts Music Service provides tuition to 28,000 children across Hertfordshire. Picture: ARCHANT\SingerA

Saffron Photo 2017

Hertfordshire Music Service is considering applying for charitable status, taking it out of council control.

The service, which is headquartered in Hatfield, has seen a year-on-year reduction in funding from Herts County Council.

It was allocated £400,000 for the financial year of 2017-18, which will be halved in 2018-19.

The minutes of a committee meeting of the Education, Libraries and Localism panel on February 6 that said it “supports the principle that Hertfordshire Music Service acquire a charitable or other appropriate status to allow it to operate outside the direct control of the council”.

It added that any change in governance would be discussed with the Arts Council of England.

The music service is currently registered as a business and its overall operational budget is around £10million, which comes from grants, tuition fees, and some donations.

James Dickinson, head of Herts Music Service, said: “At the moment we can’t access charitable contributions, so we’re working out if charitable status would actually help us.”

The service employs 520 teachers who deliver 6,000 hours of music tuition a week to 28,000 children across the county, as well as organising groups like the county youth choir and orchestra.

It gives free tuition for children who are eligible for free school meals, and offers a reduction to families on means-tested benefits.

The service also gains substantial in-kind support by being part of the council, including use of buildings, handling aspects such as payroll, and other “back office” functions.

The proposal comes in the wake of Herts County Council’s decision to vastly reduce the size of its art collection.

Mr Dickinson added: “Our position is that we are looking at this as a way of strengthening and securing the service further,” adding that he appreciated the council’s ongoing commitment, stated in the meeting minutes, to supporting the purpose of the music service.

“We should celebrate that and make sure it’s followed through with a positive proposal.”

Unlike other cultural services like libraries, it is not a statutory service, which means that the council is not obliged to provide it.

Music organiser David Himbury, who is trying to revive Welwyn Garden City’s music culture at the Green Room at the Doctor’s Tonic pub, said: “It seems like the way of the world at the moment, everything being cut.”

However, he’s not gloomy about the possibility “as long as there’s someone overseeing that’s passionate about music”.

The music service will submit its proposal in Autumn this year.

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