Oxford

Oxford 'baby blockade' protest against children's centre cuts takes place

Children's centre protests Image copyright Desmond Brambley
Image caption The Save Oxfordshire Children's Centres Campaign formed a "baby blockade"

A protest has taken place opposing cuts to children's centres in Oxfordshire.

The Save Oxfordshire Children's Centres Campaign "baby blockade" is against Oxfordshire County Council plans to cut the number of centres to save £8m.

Organiser Jill Huish said more than 500 people were "definitely seen and heard" when they took part in the march through Oxford on Saturday.

David Cameron had been invited to join the protest after saying he was "disappointed" by the cuts.

The council has said it will continue to support the most vulnerable families in Oxfordshire.

Under the proposals, the authority would replace 44 existing centres with eight "children and family centres" located in the neediest areas of Oxfordshire.

The PM wrote to council leader Ian Hudspeth last month calling it "counter-productive" and urging the authority to "move cautiously in setting out its budget plans".

In his response, Mr Hudspeth said the council's grants from government had fallen and that it had already made back-office savings.

Image copyright Jonathan Mazower
Image caption David Cameron was met by children's centre campaigners while shopping in Chipping Norton in 2013

Ahead of the protest, Jill Huish, on behalf of the campaign group, wrote an open letter to Mr Cameron saying: "We welcome your efforts to help protect these services, however perhaps like us you are rapidly losing confidence in government."

"Please join us in the streets," her letter urged.

"Cameron can't plead not guilty. Let's be clear, he is not just a local constituency MP, he is the prime minister.

"It's just not good enough.... we cannot keep mum and watch the 44 children's centres in Oxfordshire be closed down," she said.

When asked to comment on the open letter, a government spokesperson said: "There is still significant scope for sensible savings across local government to be made by back-office consolidation, disposing of surplus property and joining up our local public services.

"The government continues to work with councils to help deliver these savings and protect frontline services."

Image copyright Desmond Brambley
Image caption Organisers said more than 500 people took part in the march through Oxford
Image copyright Desmond Brambley
Image caption Protesters oppose replacing 44 existing centres with eight "children and family centres"
Image copyright Jill Huish
Image caption They braved wet weather conditions to march through Oxford city centre

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