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Tories sign up for campaign to protect children's centres
A CAMPAIGN against the closure of children’s centres has gained support from within the Conservative Party.
But county council leader Ian Hudspeth has said he is not worried about opposition within his own ranks and said the right decision would be made in the end.
The Oxford East Conservative Association has publicly opposed a proposal which could see 37 of 44 Oxfordshire children’s centres shut.
The potential closures were outlined to staff several weeks ago as the council prepares to announce how it will save an extra £61m on top of savings of £201m already made or committed to.
East Oxford Conservatives chairman Mark Bhagwandin said: “We understand the position in which the county council finds itself and we commend it for its frank and inclusive approach to resolving the county’s dire financial situation.
“However, children’s centres are too important to be sacrificed and must be seen as an important priority. In Oxford East there are about nine of these centres in some of the city’s most deprived areas. They are a valuable lifeline to parents and help to give children the best possible start in life.
“We welcome the public statements by Prime Minister David Cameron and county council Leader Ian Hudspeth that they will discuss the matter further.
“We hope that the discussions will result in a commitment to keeping the centres open.
He urged all involved not to make the issue into a “political football” but to work together “in a spirit of constructive co-operation”.
Mr Hudspeth said he wasn’t worried by his colleague’s comments, and said he expected to have their support once decisions were made.
He said: “I think we have all got to understand that we have to live within our means, and if the budget is reduced it may mean that children’s centres have to close.
“We will give consideration to everything, there are no priorities, and if we do decide that funding does need to be cut, we will be looking at the needs of every children’s centre to find the best possible way to do it.
“I visited the Blackbird Leys centre on Friday morning and I was very impressed with what I saw, and I will be visiting others.
“I am sure everybody will see that we will have the best result for everyone.”
There are 110 members of the East Oxford Conservative Association.
Labour councillor Susanna Pressel said: “I’m very pleased to hear that at least some Conservatives are showing some sense and this surely must force Ian Hudspeth and his cabinet to to think again about this mad suggestion that it would be a good place to make cuts.
“It would be a false economy to close children’s centres, because money spent on children when they’re very small reduces the need to spend money on them later in life.”
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