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CUTS: Libraries and youth centres under threat
TWENTY libraries and 20 youth centres will close unless volunteers can come to their rescue, as part of Oxfordshire County Council proposals to save £155m by 2015.
The council yesterday announced plans to stop funding 20 of Oxfordshire’s 43 libraries next year, saving £2m over four years, and slashing back youth services to save £4.2m.
In Oxford, the council will stop funding libraries in Blackbird Leys, Littlemore, Headington, Old Marston, Botley and Summertown and youth services in Headington, Cutteslowe, and Wolvercote.
But council leader Keith Mitchell said facilities could stay open if volunteers step in to run them when funding is phased out next year.
He admitted: “This will lead to a reduction in services across the county. People are going to see things and places they have loved disappear.
“We did not get elected to close things down but to make things better, and libraries and youth services are two of our most well-loved services.
“It is uncomfortable, but we have a national crisis in terms of the financial situation and we are all going to bear the pain.”
He said he was “confident” Big Society initiatives in towns and villages would save some but not all of the threatened libraries and youth centres.
Community groups will be able to bid for part of a one-off £200,000 fund if they want to keep their libraries open.
Yesterday, library users reacted with shock at the news.
Jessica Garth-Weinstein, of London Road, Headington, who visits the library with two-year-old daughter Lorelei, said: “Soon there will be nothing public left in Headington.
“It’s a very small library compared to the one in the centre of town, but that is a long way to go.”
And in Summertown, mum-of-three Nicola Denvir said her family used the South Parade library once a week.
She said: “I feel really sad, and we would definitely support any community effort to keep the library open.”
Volunteers also have until early next year to propose ways of running otherwise doomed youth centres.
Under County Hall plans, seven ‘hubs’ in the county’s larger towns will become centres of a restructured youth service, tackling school exclusion, teenage pregnancy, drug use, antisocial behaviour, youth offending and unemployment.
Some activities will also continue at existing centres in areas judged to have the greatest need, including Blackbird Leys, Barton, Rose Hill and Kidlington.
But community worker Liz Edwards, of Cutteslowe Community Centre, warned closing youth centres would cause antisocial behaviour and teenage pregnancies to soar.
She said: “We will have a lot of young people hanging around with nothing to do.
“It does not take a huge amount of imagination to realise what that will lead to.”
The number of redundancies in both services has not been confirmed, but the council said it would make up some of the 1,000 job losses expected as a result of the 25 per cent budget cuts.
Mr Mitchell said all proposals were subject to change when the council learns its detailed budget settlement from the Government.
LIBRARIES AT RISK Summertown, Headington, Littlemore, Old Marston, Blackbird Leys, Neithrop in Banbury, Adderbury, Bampton, Benson, Berinsfield, Botley, Charlbury, Chinnor, Deddington, Grove, Kennington, North Leigh, Sonning Common, Stonesfield, Woodcote.
YOUTH SERVICE SHAKE-UP
- Proposed youth service hubs: Union Street Centre, East Oxford, plus one other Oxford centre, Banbury, Bicester Courtyard, Witney Young People’s Centre, Abingdon Net, Didcot Vibe.
- Some youth service activity proposed: Rose Hill, Barton, Blackbird Leys, Kidlington, Berinsfield, Riverside Centre at Donnington Bridge.
- Youth centres under threat: Saxon Centre in Headington, Cutteslowe, Wolvercote, Bampton, Burford, Carterton, Chalgrove, Chiltern Edge, Chinnor, Chipping Norton, Cholsey, Eynsham, Faringdon, Henley, Standlake, Thame, Wallingford, Wantage, Watlington, Wheatley.