Council to consider charity plans for Hertfordshire Music Service

The service currently provides weekly music lessons for around 26,000 children and young people in Hertfordshire

Monday, 25th January 2021, 9:47 am
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 9:50 am

The Hertfordshire Music Service – currently run by the county council – could become a charity, according to budget proposals.

The service currently provides weekly music lessons for around 26,000 children and young people from across the county.

And it is said, by the county council, to be “centrally important” to the quality of life and the musical experiences of young people.

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Nevertheless over the past five years, the county council has cut its funding for the service by more than half – from £1m in 2016/17 to less than half that amount.

And now it has emerged the county council is to consider whether the service should be independent from the council – with the advantages of charitable status.

The future of the service is highlighted in the county council’s budget proposals, that were published in advance of a meeting of the county coucil’s cabinet on Monday (January 18).

“The Hertfordshire Music service is a centrally important contributor to the quality of life and range of musical experience and participation available to young people in Hertfordshire,” say the proposals.

“Net expenditure on the service by HCC (excluding overheads provided) was £1m in 2016/17 and has been reduced progressively to less than half that level.

“In order to ensure the future sustainability of the service, we need to reduce or eliminate this net cost, become more commercially focused, and

transform the way it operates whilst maintaining the same, high quality offer to young people.

“A key part of this is the proposed migration of the service to a charitable status, outside the direct control of HCC.”

The county council already has plans to transfer the running of its libraries to a public service mutual, Libraries for Life – which was set up by the council.

But the planned transfer of the libraries – expected to save the council around £500,000 a year – has been delayed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile the document also includes proposals to progress plans for a £12.8m Archive Visitor Centre, including a bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

According to the proposals the facility would include public facilities and archive quality storage and working space – at a cost estimated to be £12.858million over the next three years.

“During the next few years, it will be necessary to plan for and take steps to secure the long-term storage and accommodation needs of Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies,” says the budget document.

“The service is currently accruing physical archives at a rate of an average of 13 cubic metres per year.

“Current estimates project that there is sufficient space for archive collections for approximately 4-5 years.

“There are also challenges in maintaining the quality of the current accommodation at County Hall, to ensure it is fit for the purpose of storing of archive materials to required standards and delivering modern archive services.

“In 2018, a feasibility study took place to specify the requirement of a new building, including investigating recently developed archive storage buildings nationally.

“This year, work has progressed on identifying a suitable site for a new visitor centre and storage facility to enable cost estimates and early discussions with the National Lottery Heritage Fund on potential match funding.

“Identifying a site has proved challenging due to availability and cost of sites that are also publicly accessible, but a potential site has now been identified for further investigation.”

The budget setting process at the county council will continue for the next five weeks – with a meeting of the full council set to consider the proposals on February 23.