CAMPAIGNERS fighting children’s centres closures fear council leaders will try to “divide and conquer” by saving some and closing others.
Activists have staged demos against shutting 44 centres and seven early intervention hubs, and vow to continue to fight now consultation on various options is under way.
Mum-of-two Jill Huish, 33, from Banbury, who is leading the Save Oxfordshire Children’s Centres campaign, met fellow campaigners on Wednesday to discuss latest moves.
She said: “The county council wants each children’s centre to put forward representatives to take part in the consultation. If this happens there is a danger the council could try to divide and conquer, by suggesting the closure of some centres and not others.
“Now is not the time to fight for individual centres. Our only chance is to fight for all of them.
“Staff, parents or volunteers can come to us for advice. If each centre acts individually we could end up losing them all.”
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Ms Huish, mum to Uriel, three, and Aurora, one, helped to set up an online petition which has attracted 5,000 signatures.
The council has proposed replacing the centres and seven early intervention hubs with eight family resource centres.
A reduced service for youngsters aged up to 19 would cost half the £16m spent now, the council said.
A second option includes continuing some services at eight centres but reducing outreach work, while a third involves six centres and £1m in funding to support community-run family services.
Cabinet member for children, education and families Melinda Tilley said: “There will not be an attempt to divide and conquer, and I am quite happy to keep talking to campaigners.
“County councillor Mark Gray has agreed to talk to volunteers to see if there is an appetite to use the buildings. That is opening up the discussion about the possibility of community groups or volunteers taking over at children’s centres.
“We don’t expect volunteers to provide the same services but we do want to keep some universal services going.”
Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “I know how vital these services are for many people and encourage them to contribute to the consultation. “I will follow the consultation closely and will do what I can to support constituents in their efforts to keep these important facilities open.”
Labour’s Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said it was damaging to see the investment Labour made in children’s centres being undone.
Nicola Blackwood, Tory MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said the county must put staff and parents in the driving seat.