THE Prime Minister plans to have crunch talks with the leader of Oxfordshire County Council after backing calls to save children’s centres.
It comes after David Cameron, who is also MP for Witney, was confronted in Chipping Norton over the weekend by campaigners angry at the prospect of their local centre closing.
The county council is considering closing 37 children’s centres to help plug a £61m black hole after a cut in Government funding.
This is in addition to the £74m it already has to cut by 2018 and the £127m of savings between 2010 and 2013.
Mr Cameron said the main point to make was that Oxfordshire County Council had not yet made any decisions about its budget for 2014-15.
“I shall continue to follow the consultation process closely and I will do what I can to support my constituents... to keep these important facilities open.”
A spokesman for Mr Cameron said he was seeking a meeting with Ian Hudspeth, the leader of the county council, to “discuss the issue in greater detail”.
The centres offer support to families with children under five.
They are used by 18,000 people a year and employ more than 260 staff and were set up to try to ensure all children have the best possible start in life.
Parents can get help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money, training and employment.
Carterton mum-of-two Gemma Walter, who uses the town’s children’s centre, said: “It is a complete lifeline for me and many families that I know.
“We rely on them for emotional support and it is a safe place for my children to play.”
Mother-of-one Emma Taylor, who launched the Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres campaign, said she hoped the meeting could lead to a resolution.
She said: “I think it is brilliant he is trying to meet the county council’s leader.
“Hopefully between them they can thrash something out and children’s centres across Oxfordshire be saved.
“It cannot be easy to try to run services when money is being cut but it is about prioritising. It should never be an option to try to cut vital services for children.”
Three Facebook groups have been set up protesting at the proposals – Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres, Save Our Children’s Centres: Oxfordshire and Chipping Norton’s campaign Save the Ace Centre.
So far more than 1,700 people have signed up to them.
Mr Hudspeth said: “I am always happy to meet any of my local MPs so we can make sure we get the best for the residents of Oxfordshire.
“We have got to save an additional £61m which means we have to look at every area to find out where savings can be made.
“No decision has been taken yet.”
s A meeting on cuts to county council services will be held in Witney on Thursday at Henry Box School from 7.30pm until 9pm.
Conservative leader Ian Hudspeth and chief executive Joanna Simons will ask the public for suggestions on how it can save £61m by 2018.