CAMPAIGNERS fear the worst for the future of a youth music service after a 12,500-strong petition to save it from closure was rejected.

The county council is consulting on plans to axe the East Sussex Music Instrumental Service in a bid to save £180,000 a year.

A petition to save the service – which teaches more than 3,000 children to play musical instruments – triggered a council debate yesterday.

Supporters asked the leadership for extra time to come up with a new way to run the service.

But the plea was rejected and councillors will make a decision after a public consultation closes on July 27.

Lead campaigner and music teacher Jane Humberstone said: “We hope the council recognises the savings and sacrifices the music service has already made and that they grant us a sufficient period of time – perhaps three years – to achieve a resolution.”

Lib Dem Alan Shuttleworth asked the council to withdraw the plans in light of the “enormous public response”, putting any cuts on hold until a new plan could be put in place to keep the service open.

A cross-party opposition motion to stop the closure was defeated by the council’s ruling Conservatives, who instead agreed to “explore a realistic, sustainable future strategy” for the service.

Councillor in charge of education Bob Standley said the council had been looking at a “long-term solution”.

He said: “The only way we are going to maintain a music service for East Sussex is if it is no longer on the books of the county council and is no longer being supported at the expense of other core services.”

Labour’s Godfrey Daniel criticised the Government for the council’s financial situation, calling on the Conservative group to stand up  to Westminster by refusing to make the cuts.

If approved, the service will close in September 2019.

Mrs Humberstone said after the meeting: “The consultation is on how to close the service and this might happen.

“If it does then the whole service will collapse.”

Tim Costello, who worked as head of music in an East Sussex state school for 14 years, said he was “absolutely horrified” by the decision, which could costs the jobs of up to 70 teachers.

He said: “It will have a huge knock on effect to the whole education system in East Sussex.”