High Court backs Oxfordshire children's centre closures

Image caption Mothers protested outside the headquarters of Oxfordshire County Council

Campaigners fighting the closure of most of Oxfordshire's children's centres have lost their legal action against the local authority.

The county's 44 sites are set to be replaced with a new network of 18 centres next year.

A High Court judge has dismissed an application by campaigners for a judicial review.

Oxfordshire County Council said it would continue with its programme in the light of the ruling.

Image caption Campaigners unfurled a eight-metre-long petition against the cuts at a council meeting

The council had initially proposed closing all 44 centres and replacing them with eight new facilities in a bid to cut £8m as part of its overall effort to find more than £361m in savings between 2010 and 2020.

Among those who attended protests was Clare Currie, the aunt of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the services under threat "really vital for people's wellbeing".

But at an emotional budget meeting in February councillors agreed to reduce the controversial cuts to £6m.

Addressing the council's cabinet, Charlie Payne of Save Oxfordshire's Children's Services said the authority had "chronically underfunded" children's social care.

The meeting agreed eight children's and family centres, two "shared locality bases", and eight outreach centres would be kept open.

Conservative councillor Melinda Tilley, in charge of children's services, said: "Clearly I'm pleased with the decision of the High Court to dismiss the application for the judicial review.

"We have sought to defend our decisions throughout, and are pleased that the court's decision now brings these particular matters to a close."

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