PLANS to close a day care centre in Princes Risborough were compared to the plot of a TV sitcom this evening – with council bosses being warned they would “have a fight on their hands” to shut it.

Hundreds packed into the town's Royal British Legion hall to discuss the threatened Clifford Road centre, which could close after Buckinghamshire County Council was forced into making £9.2m worth of cuts this week.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, the town's MP, said a council consultation on the proposals was being “driven with enormous zeal and haste” and was taking place “at breakneck speed”.

He said of the plans: “I cast my mind back to 'Yes Minister' and 'Yes Prime Minister'. I think this is precisely the sort of abstract, barking idea wholly detached from reality the programme starts on and by the end it's been relegated to the circular filing tray.”

Only two or three day centres could remain open out of the 22 currently running due to planned cuts, the council said. 'Hubs' are likely to be in Aylesbury and High Wycombe, with another one proposed for the Amersham and Chesham area.

'Satellite' centres in the Burnham and Buckingham areas, along with several other smaller clinics, have also been mooted.

But Mr Bercow said people who currently volunteer at the centres would be less inclined to help if the planned cuts were given the go-ahead.

He said: “Volunteers will go somewhere locally to help their friends or others in the community out of the spirit of public service. The idea they are going to travel some significant distance beyond where they live is a tale told to the Marines.

“When you have lost the concept of local familiarity and good fellowship, you will not get it back. It will be gone for good. It will be dismembered, ruptured, never to be restored.”

Mr Bercow added selling the buildings would only guarantee the council one lump sum of money to spend on new day centres: “What Harold McMillan would say was selling the family silver.”

Mr Bercow said: “It might purchase a whole new swathe of new facilities. It won't do anything to finance the operation of them.”

He said there had been no commitment from the council to ring fence any funds specifically for the day centre project.

He concluded to a large round of applause: “If taken into effect one terrible thing will happen. That is, that some of the most vulnerable people in the county will have their lives damaged, blighting, scarred, irrevocably."

More than 2,400 people have so far signed a petition protesting the news, which Peter Robinson, who helped collect the signatures, said was around a fifth of the town's population.

He added people had offered him donations in a bid to fight the scheme.

Princes Risborough town councillor Gary Hall said: “This community is getting sick and tired of losing facility after facility. This very building [the Legion hall] is under very serious threat – it's unlikely to be here this time next year.

“People wouldn't want to go to a stained glass soup kitchen and be treated as a number. It's best to be treated as a person.

“You will have a fight on your hands trying to close our day centre.”

County council representative Trevor Boyd said there would be the possibility of community groups taking over the running of the centres.

Mr Boyd said of the proposals: “They are an attempt to address the critical question of how we can make services more sustainable in the future while continuing to offer people an excellent service.”

He said a third of buildings have fewer than 20 people using them each day and some had less than ten daily visitors.

The consultation ends on August 25, with a report due to be made to the council's cabinet on September 10 – an announcement criticised by another town councillor, Bill Bendyshe-Brown.

Wycombe District Council chairman Cllr Bendyshe-Brown said: “Knowing how officers work, that's not possible. It smacks to me of the officers having made their minds up already."

Cllr Patricia Birchley, Buckinghamshire County Council's portfolio holder for adult services, said the changes were intended to provide “first-class facilities in purpose-built buildings”.

The council this week has been forced into making £10million worth of cuts – of which 41.7 per cent would come from Cllr Birchley's portfolio, she said.