Joy after lollipop crossings ‘U-turn’

Former lollipop man Brian Turner at busy Beach Road, Fleetwood
Former lollipop man Brian Turner at busy Beach Road, Fleetwood

Headteachers today welcolmed an apparent U-turn on plans to axe funding for all of Fleetwood and Wyre’s 25 lollipop men and women.

The controversial proposals to slash spending on all of Lancashire’s 350 lollipop crossings and save County Hall up to £1.5m, led to fears about children’s safety.

If this version of the budget was ratified it would mean that from September, heads would have to find £4,000 a year for each patrol out of their own budget, which also pays for teachers, classroom assistants, books and equipment.

But last night it appeared the idea had been shelved.

The authority said it was never the intention of the Cabinet “to ask schools to fund the full cost of school crossing patrols from their own budgets.”

Cat Vening, deputy head at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School on London Street, Fleetwood, said: “It is good that they have clarified the situation.

“They clearly understand the concern there is for children’s safety.

“Lollipop patrols do a vital job and it should be part of the County Council’s remit, and not down to school budgets, to support them and keep children safe.”

County Hall pays a £4,000 contribution to each of the county’s 350 primary school crossing patrols, costing £1.5m per year.

Lancashire is currently looking to make huge savings in its overall budget because of Government cutbacks and the discussion will continue with school bodies into how lollipop patrols are funded in future.

However, the authority was keen this week to slap down suggestions total funding would be scrapped and that schools would have to foot the entire bill.

Charles Saer Primary School headteacher Carolyn Thackway had been worried schools would be left to pay for crossing patrols.

The school, on Grange Road, includes some pupils who need to cross busy Broadway and Beach Road to get to the school. Both roads currently have lollipop crossings on.

Mrs Thackway said of the new County Hall statement: “It is very welcome news.

“I understand the council budgets is tight but safety of children is paramount.”

And Richard Sanderson, headteacher at St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Catholic Primary School said: “That news is indeed most welcome because budgets are very tight in school.

“Whatever the outcome, we will not allow such an important service designed to ensure the safety of our pupils to end.

“If needs be, we will fund our two crossing patrols.”

Retired lollipop man Tom Johnson, 71, of Witton Avenue, was angry at any suggestion of a complete withdrawal of funding.

Mr Johnson, who ended a five-year tenure outside Chaucer Primary School two years ago, said: “They are more than just a friendly face to the kids, they can actually save lives.”

There are 340 patrols across the county which rely on council funding.

The latest statement from County Hall was designed to clear up concerns from schools and community leaders over the proposed cuts.

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 that there has been some confusion among those who have not been close to ongoing discussions on the best way to fund these services.

“The Council’s current policy, as agreed at Full Council in February 2014, is that schools will receive a grant from the Council towards the cost of school crossing patrols, and that the County Council would continue to provide the school crossing patrol service.

“As part of work to set the council’s budget, an alternative proposal was discussed which considers the funding of the school crossing patrol service from the central resources available to schools; a proposal which is very much subject to consultation with the Schools Forum.

“It was on this basis that the proposals from Cabinet were put forward to Full Council – there is no intention that schools should fund this from their individual budgets.

“Discussions remain ongoing, and further work is being undertaken with schools to ensure the proposals are properly considered.

“It is important to stress that there will be no change in the Council’s approach until the consultation with the Schools Forum has been fully, and properly, undertaken.”

Mr Borrow said he will be recommending that there is no change in the current position in 2015/16 and the council will not be asking schools to share the costs of crossing patrols from September 2015, as previously feared.