School crossing safety fears

Children's safety is being “put at risk” by deliberately leaving school crossing patrol vacancies unfilled across Norfolk to save “small sums of money”, it was claimed last night.

Children's safety is being “put at risk” by deliberately leaving school crossing patrol vacancies unfilled across Norfolk to save “small sums of money”, it was claimed last night.

Norfolk currently has 10 vacancies for “lollipop” men and women, including at three schools that have had no patrol for more than a year.

At yesterday's Norfolk County Council cabinet, Liberal Democrat children's services spokesman Mervyn Scutter demanded to know what was being done to fill the posts.

And after the meeting he said: “In recent times children's services has run with a number of unfilled vacancies as a deliberate policy to save money.

“If the same policy is being used in relation to school crossing patrols, as seems to be the case from what I have heard today, then the administration is taking risks with children's safety in order to save a relatively small sum of money.”

Rosalie Monbiot, cabinet member for children's services, said the rate of 10 vacancies out of 170 posts was “one of the lowest in the country”.

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She said unfilled patrols were advertised in letters to parents, posters in surgeries, libraries and shops, in parish council magazines, on local radio and in newspapers, including the EDP.

Mr Scutter also asked whether controlled lights or pelican crossings could be installed outside schools with patrol vacancies to “ensure the safety of local children”.

Mrs Monbiot said: “A blanket installation of traffic signals where crossing patrol vacancies exist is not appropriate as each site would need a full assessment.”

Harleston Primary has had a vacancy since February 2006. Local county councillor Fran Pitt-Pladdy said the council had promised to put new and visible signs in place by November last year, but “nothing has happened”.