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Welsh hills to lose the sound of music, claim Lib Dems
A Government Minister knowingly cut and then scrapped a successful scheme designed to provide music lessons for young people across Wales, papers released under Freedom of Information legislation confirm today, claim Welsh Liberal Democrats The Music Development Fund (MDF) provided access to instruments, workshops and training for over 60,000 young people in Wales. In 2004, when the government cut the £3m MDF, Ministers were warned in letters and briefing documents provided by the Arts Council that cutting the fund would hit the poorest youngsters, and those from rural areas, hardest. Commenting on papers released to her today Eleanor Burnham AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Culture said: “The Government is guilty of cultural vandalism. Ministers were told in 2004 what an enormous success the Music Development Fund was in giving youngsters from across Wales the chance to take up music lessons and participate in workshops. Yet they cut the budget. The documents released today show they were warned by the Arts Council and other groups in crystal clear terms the damage that the 40% cut would have. Two years later the Estyn report on the success of the MDF has borne out these dire warnings. “The Music Development Fund was a success, yet Ministers took a hammer to the scheme for reasons I cannot comprehend. Music provision for young people has been cut and youth music across Wales is suffering as a result. Where are the stars of the future going to come from, if we do not invest in their nurturing? The Assembly Government is guilty of cultural vandalism, knowing full well the damage they were doing.” Mike German, Assembly leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, added: “Labour claims that its cultural policies are aimed at helping the poorest in society – yet this policy, which was widely acknowledged to help the least well off, was scrapped. The Minister regularly rails against the elite, yet his decision to scrap MDF, hurt everyone but that very elite. “The papers released deeply concern me as they suggest that certain LEA Officers responsible for collating and presenting figures regarding proposals for future MDF allocation were ‘discouraged from sharing them’. There seems to have been pressure from somewhere to cover up the damage. This is unacceptable. The government regularly trumpets its record on openness and accountability – but attempting to hush up these damning figures does nothing for that reputation, nor for open debate of the issues.”

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