Sunday, 29 November 2020

Campaigner worried by new council cuts

A CAMPAIGNER says it would be “devastating” if the children’s centre in Henley was to be hit by new council

A CAMPAIGNER says it would be “devastating” if the children’s centre in Henley was to be hit by new council cuts.

Banny Hay, of St Mark’s Road, Henley, helped lead a campaign in 2013 to stop the Rainbow children’s centre at the d:two centre in Market Place and another at Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common from closing.

Now Oxfordshire County Council has announced another £20 million of cuts, including £3 million to come from its children’s services budget.

Mrs Hay, 44, who took her two-year-old son Caspar to the Henley centre, says it is vital for mothers like her.

“It would be devastating to lose the centres,” she said. “It would mean an extremely valuable resource which so many people depend on would be taken away.

“People move to Henley to start a family so losing the centre would not just damage users but the town as a whole.

“The centres act like community hubs for people in Henley and the surrounding villages. They are a one-stop shop for parents who can access not only play facilities but support for children and social interaction.

“Parents also have benefits including finding out about healthcare, housing and employment. It’s not just about taking children somewhere they can play with others. The other important thing is that they are open throughout the school holidays. There’s nowhere else for the children to go and Henley has a large population of parents with young children.

“It’s important for the town to have somewhere which serves the needs of the population and all the research shows that children who attend these centres have a better start in life.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, who represents Henley on the county council, has said he doesn’t know yet if the cuts will directly affect the two centres but the council wants to keep them open.

“It’s still a work in progress at the moment,” he said. “We don’t want to close the centres but we will have to review what is done within them.”

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