Last Tuesday (2 February 2016), Oxfordshire County Council’s Tory Cabinet agreed £69M cuts to council services over the next 4 years, on top of the £292M already agreed, in response to its own Government’s iniquitous local government settlement in December. Targets for so-called ‘savings’ include closing the Children’s Centres and Adult Day Centres in Banbury, Bicester and across North Oxfordshire. The final decision is due to be made by the County Council on the 16th February.
On Saturday 6th February, Banbury & Bicester Labour set up a stall in Sheep Street in collaboration with the Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres campaign group to continue its protest against the cuts to Adult Social Care and Children’s Services.
Ultimately, the new round of cuts will adversely affect families and carers already struggling as a result of the cuts made to date. The whole cuts agenda is fundamentally flawed and unnecessary. The impact of what is proposed will simply increase the pressure on, and costs for, other public agencies – police. GPs, NHS for a start. Its not just the Day Centres that are being threatened. Complementary services – the Dementia Service, Falls Service, Support for Carers, Carers Respite and Transport – are all set to be scaled back or disappear.
It’s often said that Bicester residents are too comfortable and apathetic to support campaigns such as these. Despite the dreadful weather however, we received a magnificent response from Bicester people in support of fighting the cuts to these vital local services and saving the Childrens and Adults Day Centres in particular. The stall was visited by a constant stream of people of all ages offering support and over 500 pledges were collected between the two campaigns in under 2 1/2 hours before the high winds and rain drove people off the street.
The pledges state that the signatories will not vote for any Councillor of whatever party in 2017 County Council elections if they vote in favour of the cuts being proposed to Adult Day Care and Childrens Centres. They will be sent to the appropriate County Councillor prior to the County Council Meeting on 16th. And we’ll be reporting back on who votes for what – watch this space!
Chris Howells, Chair of Bicester Labour Party, said “Many local residents told us that either they or their families relied on the centres or they knew a friend or neighbour who did. People felt that closure would be a disaster for the Town and its people of whatever age, especially as Bicester is growing so rapidly.”
One service user of the Adult Day Centre in Bicester (pictured) said “For many people living on their own with no family, the centre is a lifeline. It’s the only time in a week when they get to meet and socialise with people and it helps to stop them feeling lonely.”
The cuts to local government spending and our local services are a direct result of the Tory Government’s obsession with austerity and deficit reduction. Since the large increase in the deficit back in 2008/9 was caused directly by the Banks’ criminally dangerous risk taking, bringing the world’s financial system near to collapse and needing over £1Trillion of Government debt to bail them out, we should ask why our children and vulnerable adults should pay the price? Why hasn’t a single banker been jailed (Iceland has put 26 of them in prison)? Why aren’t the Banks and City of London paying the price? Who does this Government and the Tory County Council doing its bidding really represent? Certainly not the people of Bicester.
Remember, on 16th Feb, the County Council will be making a total of £361M worth of cuts over the next 4 years putting the services we, our families, friends and neighbours rely on at risk, and closing down vital local facilities. Whatever the decision on the 16th, Banbury & Bicester Labour will continue to fight against the cuts and for the retention and improvement of local services because once they’re gone, they’re gone!’