The Save Oxfordshire's Children's Centres Campaign will be demonstrating outside the County Council offices from 12.00am Tuesday 24th May. Currently, the County is promising to keep 18 out of 44 Centres open, but it is not clear that this promise will extend beyond the County elections to be held in May 2017.
Oxfordshire's Green County leader David Williams will address the Cabinet meeting to be held on Tuesday 24th May and will call for ALL the centres to be saved. He will make the point that cutting the service is a false economy in that closing the Centres will lead to family break ups and the Social Services will have to eventually pick up the bill. He says that there have been a series of compromises starting with giving them an extra £2m of the £7m they need. Then came extending the life of some to March 2017 and now the number to remain in the system has grown from 8 to 18. Cllr. Williams said what is true for one centre is true for them all.
The Save the Children's Centre Campaign has never accepted that many of the Children's Centres will close and last week occupied part of County Hall in protest setting up a crèche in the main café area. Cllr Williams said the major problem was that the County Council did not accept the Green budget in February which would have called for a referendum to allow a Council Tax increase sufficient to keep the Children's Centres open. He said Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors preferred a cuts budget which would close the Centres. Now they are having to face up to that decision: its no longer a figure on a spreadsheet, its real people and real damage.
With County Elections now definitely being held in 2017 Cllr Williams says he is hopeful that the Conservatives and Labour Parties will listen because the closures will be very close to the elections and people have long memories of the horrendous cuts they made. What he is worried about is that they will use weasel words to keep the centres open until after the elections and then turn round and slash all of them again.
David Williams also notes:
"The public could have chosen to protect our Children's Centres in a referendum. The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties would not allow the public to make this decision. I fear that the concerns and preferences of the public about possible Unitary councils for Oxfordshire will not be dealt with through a referendum either. What are these parties afraid of? Democracy?"