Proposals to scrap funding for lollipop men and women across the Fylde coast would be “putting the lives of children at risk”, headteachers and councillors said today.
The plans, to be discussed at Lancashire County Council’s full council meeting on Thursday, could see the £4,000 contribution to each of the primary school crossing patrols across Fylde and Wyre axed.
The idea is part of plans to cut millions of pounds from the council’s budget because of savage Government savings targets. The move would save the council around £1.5m a year.
But County Coun Fabian Craig-Wilson, county councillor for St Annes, said she will be making her voice heard on Thursday in a bid to ensure funding is not be cut.
She said: “My fear is that the budget for schools in Fylde is so thin that many schools would not be able to find the funds for the necessary crossing patrols.
“There are so many busy roads, particularly in St Annes and Lytham, where we would actually be putting children’s lives at risk if schools cannot afford to keep crossing patrols.”
A year ago the authority’s ruling Labour group proposed to halve their contribution to primary school crossing patrols, but plans were dropped after widespread protests.
There are currently 394 crossing patrol staff employed by the county council, 334 are at ‘fixed point’ patrols and the remainder are mobile, providing cover where there are vacancies or sickness.
Of that total, there are 22 in Fylde and 25 in Wyre.
Fylde South County Coun Paul Rigby said: “The Conservative group will oppose this outrageous proposal at the council’s budgetary meeting this Thursday, and I hope the Liberal Democrat Group will support us.”
Poulton County Coun Alf Clempson, who has worked with schools, police and council officers on road safety in his ward, said: “This proposal is outrageous and short-sighted.
“I recognise that cuts are needed but there are other ways savings can be made without putting children’s lives at risk.
“In effect, the county council is forcing headteachers to choose between spending their school’s limited resources on the safety of children on the way to and from school, or on their education.”
Headteacher of Ribby with Wrea Endowed CE Primary School, Jan Potter, said: “I understand the local authority is under pressure to cut costs because of their reduced budgets.
“However, I am very worried that children’s safety is at risk as a result of this decision, as we are continually having accidents at a mini-roundabout within yards of the school gates.
“Also if schools have to fund this provision in full in future, it will have a massive impact on children’s education as there is a limited budget for curriculum already.”
Lytham County Coun Tim Ashton said: “In effect, the county council would be forcing head teachers to make a choice between spending their school’s scarce resources on the safety of children on their way to and from school, or on their education. This is grossly unfair.”
Paul Eaton, headteacher of Sacred Heart Primary School, in Thornton, said: “The county council had planned to reduce their costs by asking schools to contribute towards crossing patrols.
“We agreed as schools to do this, otherwise we would be blamed for not taking children’s safety seriously.
“The council wrote to us last week, to change things again, and now they are not contributing at all and passing the full cost to schools.
“This, in the same week when it was announced they had made £50m on the gilt market.
“When looking to save money, the council are cutting a service designed to save children’s lives.”
But County Coun John Fillis (pictured), cabinet member for highways and transport, defended the move.
He said: “The county council continues to face unprecedented levels of cuts, due to a combination of budget reductions imposed by central government and an increasing demand for essential services such as social care.
“Between 2010 and 2018 we will have made savings of £547m, which means we have to make difficult decisions.
“We must look at every area of our spending very closely, particularly those services which we are not legally obliged to provide, and which were previously provided free of charge, such as school crossing patrols.
“The latest proposal on how school crossing patrols are funded will go to this week’s full council meeting at which a final decision will be made.”
Blackpool Council says it has no plans to axe funding for crossing patrols in the resort.