LET’S be clear. The financial situation that the council faces is not of its own making. The cuts that are being made under the cover of ‘austerity’ are extreme to the point of absurdity.
Although they are unnecessary and make no sense in economic terms - as the predictable increasing deficit, double-dip recession and massive salary increases at the top of the scale show - they are real. Although they provide cover for the real motives of the current government of Drones Club members, they have an inescapable impact.
However, when I read of the attack on the status and pay of teachers in the music service (Wakefield Express 5/10/12) I do wonder how far compliance with the government’s anti-people agenda should go.
I have been fortunate to have been associated with the music service, through the Wakefield Youth Symphony Orchestra, as parent and, for a period as a councillor, over many years.
Many readers of this paper will have attended concerts and, like me, will have seen the enthusiasm, enrichment and development of skills that the Music Service provides for a multitude children throughout the district.
Many will also have shared with me the knowledge that such experiences and skills are carried through life in a way that is transformative.
Those experiences are shaped by teachers, not ‘instructors’. Instructing can be a perfectly respectable pursuit. But it is not teaching, and there is a lot in a word.
The change in status would have a far-reaching effect on the morale of the service, not to mention the entitlement to an acceptable salary for the skills involved. Apart from anything else, such an assault on staff conditions of service is certainly not a course of action that a professed ‘Labour’ council should be engaged in.
It has been good to see the regeneration of Wakefield that occurred during the last decade.
But there are disturbing signs of a contradictory process of asset stripping. Already we have seen the death of Clarke Hall; the massively (nationally) important Joint Collection of Music and Drama has been allowed to fragment and drift away from Wakefield; Woolley Hall may be up for grabs.....and now another valued part of the education service is threatened. What will there be (apart from a geographical area) to call ‘Wakefield’ if this trend continues?
Given that we face - in the shape of the coalition government - the worst threat to the country’s fabric since 1945 - there are still choices available other than capitulation.