A number of school crossing patrols outside Hampshire schools could be axed as part of the budget proposal which aims to save £1.1 million by the end of the service.
The proposals form part of Tory-run Hampshire County Council’s efforts to reduce its expenses over the next two or three years and are part of a strategy to reduce the £132 million financial gap for the 2025/26 budget.
With no expected forthcoming government financial support, the County Council has set, through its public consultations, a number of proposals that are expected to generate a supplement of £90.4 million on savings by each directorate.
However, the County Council has warned more will be needed to meet the remaining budget gap to 2025/26.
As a result, the County Council is considering reducing or finishing most non-statutory services in the county, one of which included the change or redundancy of the School Crossing Patrolling.
By doing so, the council estimated it could save £1.1 million, which will go into the savings bag.
If its plans are approved, Hampshire County Council says it will assess each school’s situation and find an alternative where possible.
The proposal was not welcomed by a parent from Aldershot, Lisa Greenway, who told the Universal Services Select Committee that the ‘lollipop person’ represents more than a safety value.
Mrs Greenway said: “Thousands of children in Hampshire use school patrols every. For many, the lollipop man or lady is the first familiar face the child sees daily. The school crossing patrol is not just a safe value. They are so much more.
“Many children walk to school, often without their parents who are working. Many of them walk many roads only just to be stopped by the crossing patrols and then to cross safely. As we educate children, they are just that, children. Many would not concentrate on the environment around them. Without the lollipop person, children’s safety would be put in danger.
“Schools rely on school crossing patrol since they are a safe barrier for children who walk to school. Many drivers respect their authority, and unfortunately others don’t respect the wish of a child who wants to cross. Children do not have the experience to assess, as we adults have, they are at more risk.
“Could Hampshire afford the cost of increased accidents, there, I said, numerous fatalities? If this cut is through, could you really sleep at night if a child is killed as a result of the lack of school crossing patrols?” she added.
Mrs Greenway also pointed out that the public consultation held during the summer did not reach everyone since not everyone has an internet connection and cannot submit their views on the proposal, leaving thousands apart.
Another resident, Bill O’Donnovan, said that the end of the service will imply more parents taking their children to school. As a result, traffic and carbon emissions will increase, which is against Hampshire County Council’s goal of zero-emission by 2030.
For its part, Councillor Stephen Reid indicated that putting the £1.1 million from the service straight down to the savings before making school assessments would make people think that the decision is already made despite steps that need to come.
Cllr Reid said: “Take the £1.1 million out of the savings. Take the review and speak with the schools and parents. Otherwise, people would think this is a shameful consultation because money is taken already”.
Executive Lead Member for Universal Services, Councillor Nick Adams-King, said that no one at the Council wants to make difficult decisions that affect the most vulnerable in the community. But he said the County Council needs to take a holistic approach to mitigate the situation.
Councillor Adams-King said: “None of us want to do this job and be elected to take this decision. But this is not the end of the process, this is the beginning. Some proposals still need further consultations.
“We need to take a holistic approach, look at the reports, the impacts and the assessments that we have to the different proposals. We have a situation where, unusually, as a council, we work two years ahead.
“We have the responsibility to get children to school safely, but maybe there are practical things that can do that mean we don’t need the school crossing patrol at some places, but maybe in other sites, there won’t be possible not to have them around. A lot of work is yet to be done.”
On his decision day on September 18, the Executive Lead Member for Universal Services gave the green light to send the proposed cuts to the full Cabinet in November. If approved, further steps will include undertaking assessments of each school crossing patrol in Hampshire to determine whether alternative safe measures could be put in place, enabling the provision to be withdrawn.
Image: Library photograph from Devon County Council