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Glasgow forced to accept charges

Glasgow's education committee last week agreed to push through compulsory charges for pre-five education and music tuition after Labour councillors held the line at a poorly attended summer meeting.

With the education department being asked to cut a further Pounds 500, 000 from its budget after failing to close schools, the committee accepted that it had no option.

Ken Corsar, Glasgow's director of education, said: "The principle of contributions seems to be one that is being slowly accepted." Modest payments were viewed by parents as "not unreasonable" and Pounds 160,000 had been raised in a trial scheme, although contributions in some parts of the city were well below expectations.

Mr Corsar predicted a significant budget shortfall despite the charges. Thirty-five temporary nursery nurse posts will be scrapped, saving Pounds 283,000 in the remainder of the financial year.

Parents will be charged 60p a day, or 10p for children from families on income support. Those who live outside the city boundaries will be charged Pounds 5 for every half-day session. The committee also backed moves to charge Pounds 80 a year for music tuition and cut the number of peripatetic instructors from 65 to 50.

Malcolm Green, the city's education convener, said charges were unavoidable and conceded under pressure from cross-party committee members: "To impose a charge where the service was provided free before is a cut."

Christopher Mason, for the Liberal Democrats, said Glasgow schools would now be less attractive than schools in East Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire. Willie Hart, teachers' representative, appealed for officials to consider the impact on families where two or three children took music lessons. Peter Mullen, the Catholic Church's representative, said charges would be "a disaster in peripheral areas of the city".

Janet Andrews, a Labour councillor, protested: "Music is part of the culture of the city and country and we need to contribute to that. This generation of children should not lose out because of our temporary financial difficulties. "

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