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Cutting charity cash will have ‘devastating effect’
8:30am Saturday 7th December 2013 in News
Buy this photo » Parents, children and staff at the Donnington Doorstep Family Centre celebrate the news that children's centres in the county are to be saved. Picture: OX64038 Ric Mellis
CUTS in support for charities, theatres, arts centres and advice services could lead to closures, managers have warned.
As part of the savings outlined by the county council, funding for some organisations will be cut.
Yesterday it was revealed that the council, which this year had a total budget of £586m, would be axing more than £64m over the next four years.
The Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre is one of eight advice organisations which will have its county council funding scrapped in 2015.
The £14,000 given to the centre each year by County Hall may not seem that much in the context of a budget of hundreds of millions of pounds, but its removal could have a devastating effect, according to the centre’s manager Carol Roberts.
Ms Roberts said: “That funding is worth one and a half members of staff to us, and we only have four in total including me.
“For health and safety reasons we have to have two people working here at all times, so if you factor in holiday and sickness, we could close.We will have to go out and find other sources of funding. The money we get from the county council is small compared to the £64,000 we get from the city council, but it is important to us.”
As part of the proposals, Berinsfield Information and Volunteer Centre will lose £4,000 annually, Blackbird Leys Neighbourhood Support Scheme will stop getting £15,000 and the Oxford Citizens’ Advice Bureau will have funding of £25,000 withdrawn.
The council will withdraw its annual £50,000 funding for the Oxfordshire Advocacy Development Group, £25,000 from the Oxfordshire Chinese Community and Advice Centre and £117,000 from the Oxfordshire Community Work Agency.
West Oxfordshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau will also lose its £25,000 annual funding.
Meanwhile, news that children’s centres will be protected from closure has been hailed as a victory for a campaign to save the services.
Almost 16,000 people signed a petition organised by the Save Oxfordshire Children’s Centres group, and the county’s MPs all called for centres to be protected.
It was feared that up to 37 of the 44 children’s centres would shut, but county council leader Ian Hudspeth has said he does not envisage any closures.
However, the council will cut £3m from its budget for children’s centres, early intervention hubs and children’s social care through more efficient working.
Mum-of-one Sally Bolton, 36, from East Oxford, takes her three-year-old son to the Donnington Doorstep and Florence Park children’s centres regularly.
She said: “I am delighted and I think it shows the council has listened to the very strong opinions we have expressed through our very campaign.
“A lot of people have shown they really value the services, and I think this decision is a real victory for us because the council clearly was proposing to close the vast majority of the centres in order to make significant cuts.”
Mr Hudspeth said: “The response has been mainly positive so far, and I have had emails from campaigners thanking us for the work we are doing to protect children’s centres and early intervention hubs.
“This is a draft budget, and it will be going to scrutiny committee on December 16. In previous years they have said scrutiny has been a silent body, but it will be interested to see what it is like now it is chaired by opposition councillors.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “These cuts will hit services which many of the most vulnerable members of our community depend on, whether they are people with learning difficulties, the elderly and frail or people who rely on advice from centres like the CAB or Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre. It is good news that there is respite for the children’s centres, although absorbing a £3m cut isn’t going to be easy.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “Like other local authorities and Government departments, the county council has had to make some very tough decisions in this budget and all services need to play their part.
“However, as I have made clear in recent weeks I believe children’s centres are hubs offering a host of essential services and that closing them would have been a false economy. So I am very pleased OCC listened to parents and staff and will keep these centres open.”
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