In response to rumours circulating on social media sites this week, Oxfordshire County Council has issued a statement saying it has made no definite decisions on closing specific children’s centres, nurseries and playgroups in Banbury.
Posts on the social networking site Facebook suggested the Britannia Road Children’s Centre, Hanwell Fields drop-in centre and the Sunshine Centre might be among those to have their council funding withdrawn next year in line with government budget cuts.
However the council’s head of communications, Paul Smith, said whilst the council will have to make an estimated £61 million of cuts due to reductions in government grants, and may have to close some centres, no decision would be taken until next year about specific closures.
He said: “There are new financial realities facing Oxfordshire and local government and in those circumstances we want to ensure services are targeted at those in greatest need. We are therefore looking at a real change of focus and emphasis for children’s centres looking to the future. We will not be able to afford the widespread coverage that exists at present with 45 children’s centres. We must therefore concentrate closely on where these services would best be focused – for the most vulnerable.
“We are likely to be proposing the closure of a number of children’s centres as part of wider savings plans linked to this year’s budget-setting process.
“No decisions have been taken about exactly how many children’s centres would close or which. The council’s budget proposals will be published in December. Cabinet will then make its recommendations to full council for a final decision in February.”
He continued: “Following recent national announcements about future funding for Local Government, we are now facing the heavy burden of an additional £61m of cuts. All children’s centres have remained open during cuts from 2010 to 2013 but this is not likely to continue to be sustainable.”
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