EXTRA cash is set to be handed to Oxford’s advice centres helping families struggling with debt.

The number of people seeking help in the city is spiralling, causing Oxford City Council to prioritise its cash.

Despite having to slash its overall grant budget by £250,000, the council will increase funding for those who are helping people out of financial problems.

Money for homeless charities has also been protected, but arts and theatre groups, including Oxford Playhouse, have lost out.

One group set to get extra funding is the Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre in Ashurst Way.

It dealt with 989 cases between April and December 2010, more than the entire year in 2009/10. More than half were about debt.

The total amount owed was £600,000 and centre staff helped to write off more than £300,000.

Centre manager Carole Roberts said debt cases were responsible for the rapid increase in workload.

She said: “This is because of the changes to benefits, the recession and people being made redundant. The people we deal with are very desperate. We had to send someone to the Food Bank on Monday to get food for the next three days.”

She said extra city funding, up to £90,478 for 2011/12 from £77, 743 the year before, was a lifeline for the centre and the people it served.

“We are just so relieved. We thought we were going to close.”

The bleak picture painted in Rose Hill is mirrored in Blackbird Leys.

The Agnes Smith Advice Centre has seen cases rise by a third and said the debt problem was the worst it has been since the 1970s.

It is set to receive £85,290, an increase of nearly £13,000.

Citizens Advice Bureau funding will increase by £13,250 to £200,000.

The city’s grant pot has been reduced from £1,653,000 in 2010/11 to £1,403,000 in 2011/12.

Advice and homelessness organisations will get more than £900,000 of that and arts and culture groups will be handed £248,000.

The rest will go to other community organisations.

Councillor Antonia Bance, the executive member for community development, said: “The right thing to do was to make sure organisations supporting people at the sharp end get support they need to carry on doing that.

“It is a difficult year for arts organisations, and we have managed to maintain a sizable chunk of the budget for them.”

Oxford Film and Video Makers, based in Catherine Street, will see its funding cut by £10,000 to £29,000.

Centre director Geron Swann said the cut would make it difficult for some work to continue.

The grants programme will be agreed by the council’s executive board in March, provided the council’s budget is agreed in February.

l Proposals to cut £119m from public services in Oxfordshire over the next four years were agreed by senior councillors at County Hall yesterday.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet agreed a package including cuts to libraries, youth centres, adult social care, highways maintenance and waste services. The cabinet had been lobbied by several speakers, including those campaigning to save library branches. Councillor Jim Couchman said he hoped some libraries would be run by volunteers.

The cuts will have to be ratified by the full council on February 15.