Fears over future of Norfolk lollipop ladies

Parents have been urged to let council bosses know what they think of proposals which could see Norfolk lollipop men and women axed.

As part of the Big Conversation, which seeks to find ways to plug a �155m funding gap at County Hall, Norfolk County Council is asking for views on the future of road crossing patrols. The council plans to slash its spending on those patrols by �58,000 in 2011/12 and by the same amount the following year – which will shave �116,000 off the �400,000 road crossing patrols budget. While the council says most patrols would be retained, officers admit some will face the axe and community volunteers could be asked to step into the breach.

A county council spokesman said: 'We propose to review school crossing patrols against a set of safety criteria. This is likely to see patrols retained at most sites, particularly at those where there is most traffic danger.

'However there may be sites where there is considered to be less danger and pedestrian traffic controls are in place. In such cases we would consider ceasing council funding, but enable community volunteers to step in where there is felt to be a strong local need that patrols should continue.'

Suffolk County Council has already said it intends to lay off 62 staff to save �174,000 and Norwich South MP Simon Wright is keen to stop similar large-scale cuts in Norfolk. The Liberal Democrat MP said lollipop men and women had a vital role to play, not only in safety, but in cutting car use by giving parents confidence that their children could walk safely to school.

He said: 'It might be that there is a role for volunteers and we accept that the county council needs to make cuts, but what worries me is that there does not seem to be a carefully planned strategy for putting those volunteers in place or establishing if they are available. It is really important that parents, grandparents, school staff and school governors who feel this is the wrong way forward let the county council know.'

Ena Mallett, 77, who has been a lollipop lady outside Fairhaven Primary School in South Walsham for 26 years, said: 'I think it is essential they keep the lollipop men and women because some of the cars go much faster than 30mph and where I work there are parts where there is no pavement at all.'

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People can have their say as part of the county council's Big Conversation, and comments have to be in by Monday, January 10.

Respond online by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/bigconversation, by emailing haveyoursay@norfolk.gov.uk, by writing to Freepost Your Norfolk or, if you want to help save the council money by using a stamp, by writing to Norfolk County Council. Customer Service Centre, North Wing, County Hall, Martineau Lane,Norwich, NR1 2DH.