Controversial changes to the county council’s early help services for families – which campaigners fear will result in the closure of 35 children’s centres – have been branded “damaging and disgraceful” by a Labour councillor.

Bucks County Council (BCC) wants to create nine new hubs that would be based in the areas of highest need and would provide parenting courses and sessions for people who need support. Other sessions could be held in community settings like schools, village halls and coffee shops or in the family home.

Bosses say the changes could save the county council £3.3 million – but the plans have been criticised by campaigners and the Wycombe labour party, who fear that the hubs will replace the 35 children’s centres which currently operate across Bucks.

A petition to “save” the centres – set up by campaigner Ozma Hafiz – has so far gathered more than 1,500 signatures.

At a Wycombe District Council meeting on Monday, Cllr Khalil Ahmed said interviewing vulnerable children about personal matters in coffee shops and other public places shows a “flagrant disregard” for their privacy.

He said: “These proposals with put our vulnerable children and young people even more at risk from abuse, neglect, and ill health. These proposals are ill-considered and unprofessional.”

Addressing leader of the district council, Katrina Wood, he added: “BCC’s proposals are based on the belief that – and I quote – ‘residents will take greater responsibility for their own needs and those of their families and communities.

“Aspirations rather than dependency will be valued and everyone will play their part in the success of the county’ – so I ask you this – do you agree that it is ridiculous to ask a five-year old in a wheelchair to take greater responsibility for their own needs?

“Do you agree that it is damaging to the teenager who is supporting their suicidal mum to take greater responsibility? Is it not disgraceful to ask a young girl being abused by her father to be aspirational rather than dependent?”

Cllr Wood defended the county council’s plan, saying: “Of course I would agree that it is inappropriate to discuss highly sensitive personal matters in cafes but the BCC consultation proposes a range of possible options.

“The coffee shop example you have quoted says informal settings can be preferred by families who may feel able to have an honest conversation in a relaxed environment, creating a better relationship between the individual and the worker.

“You have picked one area from the website that suggests some users may welcome a less formal approach or take responsibility.

“But if you read further on, it’s very clear that there are a wide variety of settings and solutions that will be offered and I'm sure that in terms of a five-year-old, they are expecting the parents to take responsibility rather than the child, so I think that is rather an incongruous statement.”

A public consultation on the plans closes on October 16 – visit to give your views.