PROTESTERS rallied outside County Hall as senior councillors pressed ahead with yet more controversial budget cuts. 

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet backed changes to services for the disabled and elderly, which will see the number of adult day centres it funds fall from 22 to eight.

It will save about £3.14m a year by 2019 but families have warned it could have ‘devastating’ consequences.

The local authority insists it can no longer afford the current £9.3m service and full council will vote on the change next month.

But speaking at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, former county councillor Ted Cooper urged the cabinet to change course.

He claimed no one from the county council had spoken to elderly users of the Elms Health and Well Being Centre in Witney about the changes yet, adding: “You are sitting here, deliberating but no one has come anywhere near the centre.

“People are worried about what will happen and are wondering how on earth they will cope with the changes to the transport system.

“Before they get on a bus they will have to book on a county council system – but for some people that kind of thing is a nightmare.”

Rachael Scott-Hunter, who cares for her severely-disabled daughter Alexandra, also warned that moving centres and changing support staff would make some people  ‘extremely anxious’. 

Cabinet member for adult social care Judith Heathcoat said she had listened to concerns and was confident the service would still support the most vulnerable.

Under the proposals, the service would be ran from eight centres, in Abingdon, Banbury, Bicester, Didcot, Oxford, Wallingford, Witney and Wantage. After its public consultation, the council has pledged about £225,000 more than originally suggested, which includes extra grant funding for charities to bid for, as well as about £650,000 of ‘transition funding’ to help existing services adjust.

Kate Terroni, director of adult services, said the council would speak to everyone affected by the changes.

She added: “We know we have to manage the transition incredibly carefully.”

It came as parents demonstrated outside County Hall in support of Donnington Doorstep, a family support centre which faces a £60,000 cut to its budget. 

The cash previously came from the children’s centres budget, but this is being cut by £6m as part of a reorganisation.

Outside County Hall, parents sung nursery rhymes and held banners in support of the charity, which helps people with parenting, as well as financial issues and drug and alcohol addictions, calling for it to be given ‘transition’ money.

Its independent trust has asked for £40,000 to help it become self-sufficient, with director Beth Knighton warning its open-access service could face closure otherwise. 

She said: “People are very emotionally attached to this service and feel Donnington Doorstep is part of their lives and of their children’s upbringing. We have been overwhelmed by the support from the community – so many people have contacted us offering help.”

In yesterday’s meeting, county councillors John Tanner, of Labour, and David Williams, of the Green Party, urged the cabinet to reconsider a grant application from Donnington Doorstep. Its first bid was refused and it has resubmitted another.

County council finance boss Lawrie Stratford said: “It seemed to be identical to the previous application so I do not think it will change our views, but it will go to a meeting.” The county council will vote on changes to day centres at a meeting on February 14.