Could cash cuts lead to children’s centre cull?

Oxfordshire County Council's Cherwell meeting was packed
Oxfordshire County Council's Cherwell meeting was packed

An Oxfordshire County Council document suggests severe cash cuts could mean there will be no children’s centres or youth hubs left in the entire Bicester area.

The subject was the hottest topic at a county council meeting at Banbury Town Hall on Monday – held to discuss how the council can save an additional £61 million over the next five years due to Goverment cash cuts.

The meeting, which was held to cover the entire Cherwell area including Bicester, was a heated one with the discussion on children’s centres moving many concerned parents to tears. The council has said it will not be able to afford the widespread coverage that exists at present, with 44 children’s centres and a mobile children’s centre in Oxfordshire.

It says it is likely to be proposing the closure of a number of centres but that no decisions have yet been taken.

However, the Bicester Review has seen a document that suggests none of the four existing children’s centres in Bicester and the surrounding area would remain.

This means the town’s Brookside and Glory Farm children’s centres could be at risk alongside Heyford & Caversfield Area Children’s Centre in Upper Heyford and Ambrosden Area Children’s Centre. The document also indicates the Early Intervention Hub in Launton Road, known as The Courtyard Youth Arts Centre, is also at risk.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “We understand concerns but we don’t make budget proposals until December and we don’t make any final decisions until February. During December we also learn from central Government whether our forecast £61 million saving is correct or whether the sum will be higher or lower.”

Between 2010-2013 the county council has had to save £127 million, and between 2013-2017 the target was originally £74 million but this summer it was told it needed to find £61 million on top of that.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “There are going to have to be some very tough decisions. We have to work together to make sure we get the best deal possible.”

Monday’s meeting was the first one of five held across Oxfordshire. One was held in Oxford on Tuesday and next week will see visits to Wantage, Didcot and Witney.

The county council wants people to share their views online at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/talkingoxfordshire and people have until November 29 to give feedback.