Axe may fall on half of Oxfordshire's council libraries

Funding for nearly half of Oxfordshire's council-run libraries and many of its youth services could be axed under budget cuts.

The proposals would affect 20 of the county council's 43 libraries, and 20 out of 33 youth services.

The Conservative-run council said it hoped volunteers would step in to run the services under Prime Minister David Cameron's "Big Society" plans.

The council needs to save between £155m and £203m up to 2015.

A spokesman could not say how many jobs would go as a result of the library and youth service cuts, adding 1,000 job losses before 2015 across the whole council had already been announced.

"We can't be any more specific than that at the moment," he said.

The council says it is already on course to save £35m this year from staff cuts, a pay freeze, management restructuring and cutting costs.

It now wants local communities to come up with "innovative ideas to run their local libraries" as a result of its latest proposals.

"In line with the government's Big Society agenda, Oxfordshire County Council is to set up a pot of money to which local communities can bid for funds to help them take responsibility for any library that the council is seeking to end funding," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile future youth services under the plans will focus on children "in most need" dealing with school absences, unemployment, teenage pregnancy, substance mis-use and anti-social behaviour.

Seven youth service "hubs" will remain, but those under threat include school sites at Eynsham, Wheatley, Wantage, Chiltern Edge and Thame, plus sites at Wolvercote, Saxon Centre (Headington), Cutteslowe, Carterton, Bampton, Standlake, Chipping Norton, Burford, Faringdon, Wallingford, Henley, Cholsey, Chalgrove, Chinnor and Watlington.

Leader of the council, councillor Keith Mitchell, said: "We have agonised over these proposals and I am sure we will agonise some more as our budget position changes when more information on exact funding details is received from Whitehall."

In October, Chancellor George Osborne said in the government's Spending Review that local authority funding would be cut by 28.4% by 2015.

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