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Make your views known on proposals for nursery education and council funded music service

Pontypridd Parliamentary candidate, Osian Lewis has urged people to respond to the council’s consultation on cuts to services in the county.
The extended consultation ends on Friday 30th January at 5pm. He made the call as he released the party’s response to the consultation.
Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary candidate for Pontypridd, Osian Lewis said:
“The Party of Wales has sent in its response in opposition to the changes to the funding for nursery education and to the council funded music service. The bungled earlier consultation on nursery education and libraries has resulted in the taxpayers losing more yet more money as the council fought and lost in the courts.
“The cuts to nursery education are bad for children, bad for parents and bad for teachers. They discriminate against those most in need and impact on women far more than men.
“What representations has RCT’s cabinet made to the Welsh Government regarding next year’s settlement? The people of RCT will not put up with the usual excuse of blaming the Westminster Government if the Council does not fight its case against the government that actually sets its budget.
“The cost-cutting decision in question is likely to have a severe impact on the county borough’s ability to nurture musical ability and bring out the best in youth talent which of course helps young people nurture confidence.
“The council’s proposal will take away the level playing field that currently exits, leaving children from deprived backgrounds unable to realise their musical ambitions, creating a divide in opportunity between those who are better off and those who are not.”
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1. RESPONSE TO CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED CHANGES TO FUNDING FOR NURSERY EDUCATION
We are writing in opposition to the changes in the funding for nursery education. The bungled earlier consultation has resulted in us the taxpayers losing more money as you fought campaigners in court.
The late council leader in his Pontypridd Observer column on 12 September 2013 stated: “The reason we continue to invest in education is to ensure the young people of Rhondda Cynon Taff are given every opportunity to reach their full potential.”
However these education cuts go against his words.
As part of the Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru invested in the Foundation Phase. Investment in early years’ education is crucial as good quality education in the early years of a child’s life can help equalise children’s life chances and lead to higher attainment levels later on. Research carried out by Pontypridd based education expert David Egan for Save the Children shows that the attainment gap is apparent at the age of 9 months and grows throughout a child’s education.
We acknowledge Rhondda Cynon Taf currently does provide over the current 10 hours a week of the Foundation Phase Places for all three and four year olds. As well as providing young children with education, this also helps working parents through providing childcare.
Retaining the current situation and ensuring an offer of a full-time Foundation Phase place to all three and four year olds in Rhondda Cynon Taf could benefit children and families as it would offer good quality early education as well as helping working parents.
Evidence also identifies improved educational attainment by bilingual and multilingual children, and Plaid Cymru wants all children to share in those improved outcomes. The change in school admission arrangements would go against Welsh language provision.
Trade unions believe the cuts are bad for children, bad for parents and bad for teachers. They discriminate against those most in need and impact on women far more than men.
At a time of tightening wallets we have to ask a fundamental question: If we accept that poverty is holding back both our children’s education and our local economy, what is the single most effective anti-poverty response? The answer lies in early intervention in a child’s life and an ambitious focus on high standards for all. To go ahead with the cuts in funding for nursery education will be bad for the local economy and reduce parents’ ability to work, as we heard in the public meeting we organised.
We ask for transparency over the way the budget is presented so proper scrutiny of the budget by councillors and the public can take place.
For example to strengthen accountability in the process why can you not give a clear indication of what is in the £45m other services and misc. budget line?
Why can you not provide the same information as is provided by Bridgend Council, another Labour controlled council? We were told in the public meeting organised in the Llantwit Fardre/Beddau area last year that comprehensive information is available for each school in the Bridgend Council area.
We urge you to rethink your proposals on funding for nursery education.
2. PLAID CYMRU – THE PARTY OF WALES RESPONSE TO RHONDDA CYNON TAF’S COUNCIL FUNDED MUSIC SERVICE
The Welsh Government’s written statement in December 2010 on the review of music education for 3 - 19 year olds said that 'music makes an important contribution to our culture and to the well-being of young people.’ The Council cabinet seems to ignore or disregard this statement.
The consultation mentions that, should this be implemented, that it will be for schools to ‘source alternative music teachers and instructors to cover curriculum teaching and instrumental / vocal lessons.’
With many schools running at a deficit, the extra money needed to fund the service is unlikely to be found. There will therefore be less music provision in Rhondda Cynon Taf as a result of the Cabinet’s decision.
Teachers’ union ASCL Cymru has highlighted the grim picture of school finances in Wales and Rhondda Cynon Taf Council.
According to an article on WalesOnline on the 29th of October 2014, the capital’s schools had the biggest deficit in Wales, with the secondary sector being some £2.7 million in the red. It identified that schools in Cardiff have spent 95 per cent of their reserves over the last 5 years. It also noted that two other authorities have an overall deficit in the secondary sector with Blaenau Gwent being £100k and RCT £800k.
In the consultation you say that ‘all councils continue to be affected by significant reductions to their funding as a result of austerity measures put in place by the UK Government’. Your former leadership used to blame the Welsh Government when Plaid Cymru was in office but then your focus changed when Labour were kicked out of office in Westminster in May 2010. Perhaps you could explain the change in focus?
Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales condemns Westminster’s agenda of austerity which results in cut backs in public services in Wales and fails to achieve the intended aim of reducing the UK’s budget deficit. However, the Council’s budget is set by the Welsh Government, which has decided to drastically cut the local government budget while continuing to pump money into other less essential programmes. Party of Wales AMs voted against the budget and we continue to oppose the Welsh Government’s skewed priorities.
What representations has RCT’s cabinet made to the Welsh Government’s Minister for Public Services regarding next year’s settlement? The people of RCT will not put up with the usual excuse of blaming the UK Government if the Council does not fight its case against the government that actually sets its budget.
The cost-cutting decision in question is likely to have a very negative impact on the county borough’s ability to nurture musical ability and bring out the best in youth talent.
At present, youngsters with musical talent can reach a level of excellence without depending on their families’ ability to pay for private tuition. The council’s proposal will take away the level playing field that currently exits, leaving children from deprived backgrounds unable to realise their musical ambitions.
Music is also invaluable to those children suffering with disabilities or learning difficulties. Often, children who struggle with academic subjects will have a talent for music, which will nurture confidence in those who could otherwise fall victim to low self esteem.
The consequences of this proposal have the potential to be profoundly damaging to the aspirations, spirit and well being of young people. RCT has a proud history of musical talent and as the birthplace of our national anthem; it would be a lasting tragedy if the council were to press ahead with this proposal.
Osian Lewis
Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales
On behalf of Plaid Cymru’s Pontypridd constituency