A LEADING council official has quit his post after moves to increase tuition fees for pupils by 85 per cent next year.

The proposals by Moray Council, which come after a string of similar increases by other local authorities, would saddle 800 families with a £699 annual bill.

John Mustard, the council's head of instrumental instruction service and an accomplished cellist, stepped down after 30 years claiming the decision could deprive youngsters of a lifetime of enjoying music.

He said: "The reason is simple, I cannot agree with the decision by the council to raise the cost of music lessons by 85 per cent to what will be the highest level in Scotland.

"In a low wage economy such as Moray this will have the effect of depriving many young people of a valuable skill and pleasure for life."

The respected cellist, who has organised annual concerts, classes and performances for tens of thousands of pupils during his career added: "I regret this deeply, but I cannot be part of a decision that will do so much damage to a service I have built up to national acclaim over the last 30 years."

Last week, there was an outcry from parents in Midlothian after the council proposed scrapping the instrumental music service altogether.

Scores of other local authorities have also either cut services or increased fees as they battle with public spending cuts.

The trend has sparked a wave of opposition from leading musicians, composers and educationalists who called for tuition to be free to all pupils.

Moray Council's music tuition service currently provides classes to more than 800 students and sends more to national orchestras than anywhere else in the country per head of population. Councillors approved the increase in fees last month.

The council is currently struggling to close a budget gap of about £14 million, which also includes introducing a fee to collect garden waste bins, increasing the size of P2 and P3 classes and a 10per cent rise in charges for harbour users.

Moray Council thanked Mr Mustard his decades of service to the region adding: "We are sorry to see John Mustard leave, he has created a huge musical legacy in Moray. We wish him well for the future."