William Eichler 15 January 2016

Strikes threatened over slashing of children’s services in PM’s constituency

Union members threaten strike action over dramatic council cuts to children’s services.

Unite will ballot members for strike action over Oxfordshire County Council's plans to shut all of its 44 children centres and seven early intervention (EIS) hubs, including in the prime minister's Witney constituency.

The balloting will begin from Monday 18 January over the plan that, Unite argues, puts 420 highly skilled jobs at risk. The ballot closes on 5 February.

The council plans to cut £8m from children's services, as part of a projected £50m cut to frontline services.

Last November, David Cameron wrote to Oxfordshire County Council’s leader Ian Hudspeth expressing his 'disappointment' at proposed ‘cuts to frontline services’ and characterising the slashing of the council’s grant as a ‘slight fall’.

Cllr Hudspeth responded by pointing out to the prime minister that the council's grant from Government had fallen from £194m a year in 2009/10 to £122m this year.

‘I cannot accept your description of a drop in funding of £72m... as a 'slight fall'’, he wrote in response.

Oxfordshire County Council has announced overall cuts of £292m from 2010-2018, and councillors will meet on 16 February to vote on the budget proposals.

Unite regional officer Chris Gray said: ‘We are urging councillors to find an alternative solution to these damaging cuts and to vote against the proposals at the budget meeting on 16 February. The future of Oxfordshire's children's early intervention service is in their hands.’

Welcoming Cllr Hudspeth’s response to the prime minister, Mr Gray still insisted that councillors must not ‘sit on their hands and ignore the pleas of those they represent.’

‘They would do well to remember that cuts to children's early intervention services are the falsest of false economies. Our members protect children and young people from more costly interventions like social services, mental health services and prison.’

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