Lollipop men and women could become latest victim of budget cuts
- Credit: PA
The future of lollipop men and women is under threat today as politicians wrestle with budget cuts which could consign them to becoming a thing of the past.
A familiar sight outside Norfolk's schools, they could disappear from our streets as councillors prepare to debate options that include scrapping the service altogether or cutting it drastically.
A quarter of the county's primary schools currently have road-crossing patrols, which help young children walk to school safely by stopping traffic, but the service is now under threat because of budget cuts.
Tomorrow's Children's Services Committee will be asked to consider five options, which include abolishing the service completely, cutting it from the current 97 sites to about 17, or axing an estimated 40 crossing patrols that no longer meet national thresholds.
The report warns councillors: 'This is a high profile service that can easily become emotive with citizens.'
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It said there were two main risks associated with stopping the service altogether: 'the negative reaction of all key stakeholders, especially parents', and 'the public reaction if there was an accident involving a child, even where the presence of the road crossing patrol would have made no difference'.
The council previously agreed to cut the service's budget by £150,000 in 2015-16, and another £150,000 in 2016-17.
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The service would cost £269,530 to run as it is, but its budget for 2016-17 is £128,610.
While the budget reduction in 2015-16 was managed through an under-spend, the report warned 'this year we will have to change the service considerably to manage it within a drastically reduced budget'.
The debate about the future of the service follows a reduction in the number of lollipop men and women in recent years.
Last year, this newspaper revealed the number in Suffolk fell by almost a quarter between 2010 and 2015, from 81 to 62, while Cambridgeshire experienced a fall from 58 to 48 in the same period.
In Norfolk, number went from 126 to 110.
Previous reductions in the service in Norfolk, when some retiring lollipop men or women were not replaced, met with mixed responses from their communities.
Last year, one parent, Rachael Baylis, said crossing Happisburgh Road in North Walsham had become 'terrifying' after the council decided to not replace Tom Cornwall, because it said there were not enough children of the relevant age crossing the road.
However, Jim Graves, clerk of Horsford Parish Council, said the loss the village's patrol after Christine Longman retired after 17 years in 2014 had little effect because only two or three children used it.
James Joyce, chairman of the Children's Services Committee,
said: 'This saving was originally agreed two years ago and it's
important that the committee has an opportunity now to review that decision in light of the latest information.
'Committee members have a number of options open to them and I expect this issue will be very thoroughly discussed on Tuesday before any decisions are reached.'
What do you think about the future of Norfolk's lollipop men and women? Write, giving full contact details, to EDP Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your full name, address and contact details.