Councillors in Conwy have rubber-stamped cuts to the music tuition budget despite a warning it would penalise families who are “just about managing.”

The decision, made by the cabinet, means that schools in the county will lose their £327,000 delegated budget for music lessons – leaving just £61,000 to fund free tuition for pupils eligible for free school meals.

The move, which saves the authority £266,000 a year, was described by Cllr Goronwy Edwards as the result of “years of austerity by various governments,” but concerns have been raised it will result in music lessons being seen as “elitist.”

“As with all departments, education services are required to make savings and this is an area we’ve  been looking at for a while,” Cllr Julie Fallon, the cabinet member for education told Tuesday’s meeting.

“This isn’t an easy decision to make but I feel comfortable that we’ve found a sustainable solution and that pupils will still be able to access the provision.

“I genuinely feel this will mean parents pay the same across the board whereas at the moment there are many discrepancies.”

General music lessons as part of the school curriculum will remain unaffected, however, with the move affecting those receiving tuition to play various instruments.

“This allows us to keep the music service whereas some authorities have taken the decision to outsource that which will cost parents considerably more,” added Cllr Fallon.

“There is some suggestion that Welsh Government funding via the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) that could put put aside to help those who may be more able and talented as it does seem that costs seem to increase the higher you move up the grades.”

However, Cllr Chris Hughes was critical of the proposals, with the Labour group leader urging a rethink.

“We talk about those eligible for free school meals but not those families who are just about managing at the moment,” he said.

“You say it will cost £2 a week but how many families are already dependant on food banks?

“There is a lot of poverty in Conwy and that’s the reality and I think we need to recognise that we have a duty to tackle poverty.

“You’re talking £3-£400 a year per family if you have three or four children benefiting from music lessons.

“For a huge number of people music is their gateway to education and I don’t believe this enhances the service nor provides a level playing field.

“Those  least well off will end up having to withdraw, and that is wrong.”

But Cllr Louise Emery believed that the proposed cost of £2.13 a week was “reasonable” and “generally a good compromise.”

The move, which was approved by the cabinet, is set to come into force from April 2020.