COUNTY council youth workers will begin a series of strike actions from next week in protest at job cuts and service closures.

Public service union Unite said 34 of Oxfordshire’s 80 youth workers would take part in the one-day walkouts from Tuesday.

Banbury youth worker Mike Beal said the team had taken the decision with a ‘heavy heart’.

He said: “Youth workers would much rather be doing their jobs but the council is turning its back on young people.

“They will take strike action with a very heavy heart, but how else can they get an unthinking council to listen? Oxfordshire’s plans to dismantle its youth service are short-sighted. They will tear apart the youth service at the very time when it is needed most.

“I have spoken to a number of young people who all say that without their local youth club they would be hanging out on street corners.”

The union said that all 80 Oxfordshire youth workers, who care for hundreds of vulnerable young people across the county, had been told their jobs are at risk.

The county council is trying to make savings of £155m by 2015. Youth service funding will be cut from £3.7m to £1.4m.

Under the plans, funding to 26 youth centres across the county is being cut from September.

They will be replaced by seven new council-run hubs – in East Oxford, Littlemore, Banbury, Bicester, Didcot, Abingdon, and Witney – along with six satellite centres, at Blackbird Leys, Rose Hill, Barton, Donnington Bridge, Berinsfield and Kidlington.

A number of youth centres are set to be run by volunteer groups in future.

Mr Beal said youth workers in the union were balloted on July 18, with the majority voting in favour of strike action.

He added: “Across the county, young people have shown again and again that they are not as portrayed – as apathetic – and that they do want to contribute to Oxfordshire by fighting to save their services. By ignoring their pleas, this council risks confirming young people’s worst suspicions – that politicians are not interested in them.”

County council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “There has been a figure put around about the amount of potential job losses.

“As far as the council is concerned, any numbers bandied around about possible job losses are premature, as the new service structure is yet to be put in place and all eligible affected staff are applying for posts in the new structure.

“The council is having to make £119m worth of cuts as a result of cuts in Government grant funding experienced by all councils.

“Despite this, it is keeping 13 of its youth facilities open as hubs or satellites.

“Nine other youth facilities will remain open, having been awarded Big Society ‘start up’ funding so that communities can take on their running.”