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Oxford children’s service staff balloted for strike over cuts

Children’s services staff at Oxford County Council are to be balloted for strike action over plans to shut services. 

Proposals include closing all of the local authority’s 44 children centres and seven early intervention (EIS) hubs. This would see £8m removed from the children’s services budget, as part of a further £50m cut to frontline services. 

The Unite union, which represents staff in the EIS hubs will begin balloting members from Monday 18 January, on the plans, which it claims puts more than 400 jobs at risk. 

But an Oxford Country Council spokesperson says the local authority will continue to support the most vulnerable families, and that it would open up to eight new ‘Children and Family Centres’ across Oxfordshire. 

“The proposal is to create a brand new service absorbing the work of children's centres and the county council's Early Intervention Service,” said the spokesman. 

But Unite regional officer Chris Gray is urging councillors to find an alternative solution to “these damaging cuts”. 

“David Cameron’s hypocrisy is mindboggling. He gets himself embroiled in a row with the Conservative leader of the council after writing to complain about the impact of the ‘counter-productive’ cuts to frontline services in his own constituency. Completely oblivious to the fact that they are a direct result of his government’s own policies,” said Gray. 

“He then announces plans for state-backed parenting classes to teach parents how to raise their children properly, when the children’s centres that provide this kind of support are facing the axe in his own constituency.” 

A final decision about the future model for children’s services in Oxfordshire will be taken by the county council’s cabinet on 23 February 2016. Unite’s strike ballot will close on 5 February. 

Last year, a PSE investigation revealed that local authorities across England has reduced their funding for children’s centres by nearly a third on average over the last five years. 


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