Letters from Tony Wragg and Sue Moon published in the Banbury Guardian 18th October 2013, and from Mark Cherry published 24th October, following Oxfordshire County Council’s “Talking Oxfordshire” event at Banbury Town Hall.
From Tony Wragg
“Conservative Leader of Oxfordshire County Council claimed he had made “representations to Central Government” about the new round of cuts.
He refused to share the nature of these representations with the public but after the meeting acknowledged he has not made any formal representation to complain the new round of cuts goes too far. He has had informal conversation with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and his “own MP”, the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
If he disagreed with these cuts he would make strong written representation, which he would share with the public.
He has not done so.
Almost the whole of Monday’s consultation focused on the “coincidental” announcement of proposals to slash children’s centres in the county from 43 to five.
So it seems that, in the absence of any public representation to the Government, we have a Conservative-led county council vigorously pursuing the Conservative-led Government’s policy of making the weak, vulnerable and disenfranchised pay for the problems the country faces.
That this is taking place in the Prime Minister’s own county, one of the richest in the country, is shameful.
That the Leader of the council neither publicly acknowledges nor denies his enthusiasm for this process seems wholly disingenuous.”
From Sue Moon
“Monday night’s Talking Oxfordshire public meeting at Banbury Town Hall was filled to capacity with people desperate to voice concerns about proposed cuts to our public services by the County Council.
I attended to represent the 1,100-plus members of the Oxon School Bus Action Group, but I was also emphatically not going to be fighting our corner against others representing vulnerable groups such as children’s centres or elderly care and I made this point in the meeting to Council Leader Ian Hudspeth.
He opened the meeting by asking us to consider what services we could live without and in doing so, has created a false competition between the most vulnerable in our communities.
Our group exists because enough people believe that cuts to school bus services are wrong because they threaten the safety of children, make a mockery of the council’s own schools admissions policies, are damaging to the environment and have a disproportionately negative effect on children from rural communities.
That is not to say many of us do not also believe in the importance of other services for example,
the crucial role that children’s centres play in supporting children and parents when they are at their most vulnerable.
The reality is harsh.
The council has a £60m black hole in its finances over the next four years, but let us stand together to fight the assumption that cuts to services for children or the elderly are the only solution.
Don’t let the council leadership ‘divide and rule’.
Let’s challenge them instead to find other ways out of this mess, such as finding the missing millions tied up in Icelandic banks or perhaps even dipping into the estimated £300m council reserves.”
From Councillor Mark Cherry
“It was great to see Banbury Town Hall so full for the Oxfordshire County Council meeting about budget savings of £60 million.
Rightly so, the meeting was dominated by the chance of child centre closures across Oxfordshire, but this is the tip of the iceberg as more cuts will be announced in the coming months.
And in the public interest I ask the leader of the Conservative Independent Alliance opposition, Ian Hudspeth, to publish his correspondence with central government voicing his concerns on these continuous austerity cuts.
My big worry from the meeting is this buzzword of ‘volunteering’ to make up for job losses.
You need trained people who are paid – fact. But with Cameron austerity, I fear for services in the future.”