Strike action over children’s centre closures

Families and users of children's centres in Oxfordshire protesting outside Oxfordshire County Council last year in response to drastic changes to the provision of children's centres and early intervention services in the county. Picture by Jill Huish. NNL-150909-105729001
Families and users of children's centres in Oxfordshire protesting outside Oxfordshire County Council last year in response to drastic changes to the provision of children's centres and early intervention services in the county. Picture by Jill Huish. NNL-150909-105729001

Union members working in early intervention at Oxfordshire County Council will go on strike for 24 hours in protest at plans to close the county’s 44 children’s centres and seven early intervention hubs.

Members from Unite voted in favour of the walk-out which will take place on February 16, the same day the county council is due to vote on its budget.

Unite says the council has turned its back on children, young people and their families as it pushes ahead with plans to slash £8 million from its children services budget for 2016/17 – a 50 per cent funding cut.

The union’s members voted by 83 per cent in favour of strike action and will strike for 24 hours from midnight on February 15 to midnight on February 16. A picket line will be outside Oxford County Hall from 8am on February 16.

Chris Gray, Unite regional officer said: “The last thing our members want to do is take strike action.

“They are highly skilled professionals and deeply committed to the children, young people and the families they work with, day in and day out.

“But they have decided they cannot sit back and watch while the council denies Oxfordshire’s young people a future and destroys its top class children’s early intervention service.”

As MP for Witney, Prime Minister David Cameron recently wrote to county council leader, Ian Hudspeth, to complain about the cuts to front-line services in his constituency.

His mother, Mary Cameron, has also put her name to a petition to save dozens of children’s centres in the county.

Mr Gray added: “In writing that letter, David Cameron has exposed the two-faced nature of his stance, by urging austerity from central government on the one hand, and then taking the council leader to task for implementing his government’s own policies. “The prime minister and his Tory council leader would do well to remember that our members work with some of the county’s most vulnerable families.

“The one to one support they provide on issues from domestic abuse to help with self-harm and drug and alcohol misuse is vital to turning lives around.

“The council risks turning its back on the county’s young people and badly letting down the families that rely on these services. We are urging people to show their support for this vital service which gives Oxfordshire’s young people a start in life by joining us on the picket line on February 16 outside Oxford county hall from 8am.”