Last-minute reprieve for school lollipop patrols

Lollip patrols could be set for the axe
Lollip patrols could be set for the axe

A threat to cut county council funds for lollipop patrols has been lifted at the last minute in the midst of a political row.

Schools in the Ribble Valley and elsewhere in Lancashire were alarmed to learn Lancashire County Council’s ruling Labour Cabinet had agreed to cut contributions towards the patrols, which would have axed the £4,000 annual contribution to 16 posts in the Ribble Valley.

Schools would have had to pay for school crossing patrols as early as September this year out of their own budgets.

But as headteachers slammed the move and Conservatives prepared for battle when the cuts come up at tonight’s county council meeting, Labour claimed it was never their intention to make the cuts after all. County Coun. David Borrow, deputy leader and finance portfolio holder, said: “It is not, and never has been, Cabinet’s intention to ask schools to fund the full cost of school crossing patrols from their own budgets.

“It is unfortunate there has been some confusion among those who have not been close to ongoing discussions on the best way to fund these services.”

He added: “I will be proposing a budget adjustment on Thursday at the meeting of full council to clarify for all members that we propose to set aside funds from reserves to ensure we can take the appropriate time to consult properly with the Schools Forum.

“I will therefore be recommending there is no change in the current position in 2015/16 and we will not be asking schools to share the costs of crossing patrols from September 2015.”

Earlier, as the proposal led to a Tory-Labour rumpus, County Coun. John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, had said difficult decisions had to be made to save money. He said: “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.”

Ribble Valley Tory County Coun. Alan Schofield said: “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 scarce resources on the safety of children on their way to and from school, or on their education. The Conservative Group will of course be opposing this bad proposal at the meeting tonight.”

Before Labour moved to defuse the row, worried headteachers were saying children’s lives would be put at risk if the crossing wardens lost their jobs.