A PETITION and social networking campaign have been launched in a bid to force councillors to make a u-turn over staff redundancies.

Earlier this month Bicester Town Council announced it had restructured its outdoor team, with three people losing their jobs.

Among them was head gardener Brian Corcoran, who worked for the council for 23 years, and had won it a string of accolades for his work in the town and Garth Park.

But the move has come in for criticism from townspeople who want Mr Corcoran reinstated.

So far more than 100 people have signed the petition and others have added the campaign to their status on social networking site Facebook.

A poster making claims about the restructuring has since been removed.

The council said it reviewed how the outdoor team worked and implemented a new system to provide good-quality services and value for money. The move has not saved any cash.

It is looking to employ a “hands-on” team leader with a horticultural qualification.

All decisions, including the principle of restructuring the outdoor team, took place in confidential meetings that excluded the press and public.

Rosetta De Wit, of Langford Village, Bicester, launched the petition over concerns about the way the restructure was handled and fears Garth Park “will go downhill”.

She said: “The council has been so secretive about everything and there are a lot of people who are unhappy about it.

“This (the discussions) should have had the community involved. Brian is part of the fixtures and fittings of Garth Park and was their head gardener who had won them so many awards.

“I’m so upset about it and when I talk to people in the town they feel the same way.”

Copies of the petition are at Lewis’ Butcher’s in Sheep Street and Market Square eateries Jafflong and Papilion.

During his career Mr Corcoran, who has three separate horticultural qualifications, won best park and best town in the Britain in Bloom contests, and represented the town at Tatton Park.

On Facebook Michelle Pixie Latimer said: “Everyone I have spoken to is absolutely disgusted by it.

“I’m 31 now and the head gardner has run things perfectly well for as long as I can remember. Something def(initely) needs to be done!”

Another, David Ford, said: “Brian turned the Garth into something to be proud of.”

A poster accompanying the petition was taken down in one shop following a complaint from the town council.

The council refused to comment about the campaign, but said it had serious concerns about “untrue” information being given to the public.

Conservative leader at the council James Porter said: “I am very annoyed. If the author of the poster comes forward I would be very willing to discuss their concerns face-to-face.”