Banbury parents will hold a public demonstration in the High Street next month in opposition to proposals to close Oxfordshire’s 44 children’s centres.
The county council launched its public consultation on proposed budget savings as part of its bid to make an additional £50 million-worth of savings. Options include closing the 44 centres and seven early intervention hubs and replacing them with eight Family and Resource Centres for children and young people aged up to 19.
Users of children’s centres in Banbury will be in the High Street on Saturday, December 5 from 11am.
Jill Huish is a service user and part of the campaign group Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres. She said: “Both the Prime Minister and leader of Oxfordshire County Council Ian Hudspeth have both made it very clear that people need to be vocal about the services they want to protect. If you want to take part in the consultation, come down on December 5 and we will have information packs and forms in freepost envelopes.
“We had a big protest in Oxford last week and 50 people came by coach from Banbury. It is good that people are starting to realise the consultation runs until January but we feel that the county council has neglected Banbury and north Oxfordshire.
“It is not just about children’s centres it is also about the early intervention hubs. If they do do something in Banbury it will be a shadow of what was in the town.”
Banbury Town Council has also said it will respond ‘in the strongest terms’ to the county council’s budget proposals which includes children’s centres.
A resolution was put forward by Labour councillor Steve Kilsby at a full council meeting on Tuesday, which asked the council to inform the county council about the cuts to services and how they would impact on those living in Banbury.
But a reworded amendment was voted through by councillors which will see the town council respond to the consultation after receiving officer advice.
It said: “The council asks the leader to inform the county council that this would have very serious impact within Banbury and beyond. Whilst the council acknowledges the cuts in local government funding visited by the county council, it asks that proper consultation is carried out to develop alternative ways to retain services.
“The council requests that, after receiving officer advice, that the leader of the council reponds in the strongest terms to the county’s consultation.”
Councillor Kilsby, who represents the Neithrop ward, said: “I think the impact on the county council’s budget cuts is going to be felt across the board but not as much as the elderly. I think they are going to be the ones to be hit badly by this, especially those living in the rural areas.”
Also speaking out was Labour councillor Mark Cherry, who represents the Ruscote ward. He said: “I support this amendment. We’re told by local government that we have no money . Do not tell me there is no money available, I say services for the elderly and on children’s centres should come first.”
Councillor Kieron Mallon, leader of Banbury Town Council, said: “These cuts will impact on Banbury residents but I believe this motion offers a realistic chance to achieve the best possible outcome for Banbury and recognise the financial position we are in.”