Oxfordshire council in row over children’s centres

Oxfordshire council is at the centre of a row concerning its announcement it will close more than half of its children’s centres.

Around 26 of Oxfordshire’s 44 centres are due to close, after the proposed closures were previously abandoned. The news comes after Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to the authority last year expressing ‘disappointment’ at cuts to services.

The council has announced that from spring 2017, there will be 18 centres, with eight providing childcare services. Currently there are 44 children’s centres and seven intervention hubs.

Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for children, education and families, said: "I have no choice but to save the money, the government has stopped the money. We cannot continue as we are... and that's something I find doesn't seem to get through. When you take £6 million out of services it's going to have consequences."

Jill Huish, campaigner for Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres, said: "It's our young families and children that are going to get cheated. What's happening is they're taking money away from prevention and putting it into cure. It's basically plugging one hole to create another.

"That hole is going to mean families falling through the gaps; it means some children will be invisible to services."

Tilley added: "What we are proposing is the safest possible system that protects vulnerable families and links effectively with other agencies. Our priority is keeping children safe and supporting the most vulnerable families."

Oxfordshire council has said it will provide £1 million to help communities take on the running of current children’s centres post-2017, with the full list of proposals due to be considered by the council on 24 May.