A CHILDREN’S centre in Wheatley has been handed a lifeline after parish councillors pledged to fund at least £10,000 in an effort to keep the service going.

The Maple Tree Children’s Centre at Littleworth Road is under threat of closure after funding was slashed by the county council.

Funding for 31 out of 44 children’s centres across Oxfordshire, including the Wheatley centre, and also two of seven early intervention hubs, is due to be axed by Oxfordshire County Council as part of a sweeping programme of budget cuts which would start in April.

Now, the future of the centre has been given a boost after Wheatley Parish Council pledged the funding for next year in a bid to keep the service going.

Responding to the news Charlie Payne, from Friends of the Maple Tree, said: "Wheatley Parish Council’s pledge is a lifeline.

"They have thrown down the gauntlet to other councillors to support this vital asset.

"It was so pleasing to hear them acknowledge the importance of supporting local families in order to keep GP waiting lists down, school thriving and our community strong.

"We are hoping they will include The Maple Tree in their long term financial planning."

Plans to close the centre initially sparked a backlash last year from residents and a petition aimed at saving it was signed by 1,692 people.

The parish council pledged the cash boost at its full council meeting on November 7 but campaigners have warned that the figure is still only a quarter of the funding needed to ensure the centre's future.

Chairman of Wheatley Parish Council Anne Davies said: "The vote to fund The Maple Tree Centre was unanimous so obviously we are delighted to see so much support for this great community asset.

"The Friends have still got a lot of work to do in approaching other parish councils and other businesses.

"There is a lot of work still to do and this is obviously a great start."

Fellow parish councillor Paul Willmott said if the plan failed and the centre was forced to close it would be ‘devastating’ for Wheatley.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted with the funding pledge, I think it is such an important project.

"They have a good business plan and I think with the backing of the parish council and others it is a good step forward.

"I dread to think what would happen if it closed.

"So many people rely on it and it isn’t just Wheatley it is such an important service that we would just be devastated to lose it."

Earlier this month children's centres under threat of closure were handed a lifeline after the council agreed to waive the rent for some centres where charging rent would force them to close.

Parents fighting council plans to cut funding for more than half of Oxfordshire's children’s centres have been granted a last-chance court challenge.

The bid for a judicial review was rejected by the High Court in August but is now set to be heard by the Court of Appeal next month.