‘You’re putting safety of children at risk!’

Longridge School Crossing Patrol Lady Irene Reid MBE at work on Berry Lane
Longridge School Crossing Patrol Lady Irene Reid MBE at work on Berry Lane
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Potential changes to the way lollipop men and women are funded – which could see schools picking up half the bill for each warden or the service being scrapped – have been slammed by a local councillor.

Longridge Coun David Smith said Lancashire County Council’s plans to shave £500,000 from its budget by giving schools only £2,000 towards their crossing patrols has not been thought out – with the true cost of each lollipop person said to be around £4,500.

He said: “It is an ill thought out scheme which, while compromising the safety of children, contributes little to the £300m cuts the council needs to make, and takes no 
account of schools where there are shared or more than one crossing warden.”

He believes asking schools to fund 50 per cent of £4,500 needed for a crossing warden is abandoning responsibility, and claims it could lead to schools funding the total cost as the next stage.

He added: “Road safety is not a responsibility to be placed on school budgets and to propose a cut that could place child safety at risk I find abhorrent.”

Schools have not been consulted about the proposals, but following last week’s county council budget meeting, it was pointed out the plans were not due to be implemented until 2015-16.

Deputy leader County Coun David Borrow said there was plenty of time for consultation, after it had been condemned as a “ridiculous idea” by some councillors.

The decision to provide a school crossing patrol is currently based on whether a crossing point meets a national criteria.

Where new crossing patrols are required or where points become vacant, they are assessed and a decision made on whether to provide a new one or replace an existing one based on this criteria.

Under the new proposals, the county council wants to offer primary schools a grant of £2,000 a year towards the cost of providing a school crossing patrol and the criteria would be scrapped, leaving it up to the schools to decide if they want a warden or not.

County Hall officials say the plans will save money and provide the opportunity for more wardens.

But Longridge Barnacre Road Primary School headteacher, Simon Wallis said the council would have to put all the funding in place, also provide a co-ordinator, if the proposals were to go-ahead.

He said: “I would be extremely hard pressed to take it on, I have had no consultation about it. They would have to give us all the money and it is another thing for the school and headteacher to manage and to be quite honest, I feel I can speak for every other headteacher - we are rushed off our feet in just managing all the other aspects of our schools.”

“Come and stand with me for a week in all weathers” is the message from Longridge’s veteran lollipop lady Irene Reid MBE to those in higher authority, who are thinking about possible changes to the way school crossing patrols are funded and which could lead to schools having to pick up half of the bill for each crossing warden.

And if anyone knows the job of crossing people safely acoss the street it is Mrs Reid who, next month, will move into her 46th year in the job.

One of the town’s iconic figures, Mrs Reid, who received the MBE for her job, greets the news that changes may be afoot by saying: “It is ridiculous. I cannot see it being feasable, but obviously I would say that.”

She warns of chaos if a lack of funding was to mean cuts to school crossing patrols and, looking around “the village” as she still refers to it, Mrs Reid says she just cannot see Longridge doing without any of its “lollipop people”, should it come to that.

She said: “There is Mrs Potter at the top of Berry Lane and can you imagine people crossing there without her? There are two people at Stonebridge and they really do need people there.

“Mums are sending children out to school secure in the knowledge someone is there to cross them and it isn’t just that I am a lollipop lady, I am a great grandmother too. I cannot see it working in any other way than by having a person the children know at the crossings. If it was some random person what would they do?

“It is like everything else. People who make these decisions have not stood with me on my crossing all week in alsorts of weathers. Longridge needs every single lollipop person it has.”