SCHOOL crossing patrols at risk of being axed in council budget cuts have been saved in a North-East town after a public outcry.
Darlington Borough Council announced yesterday that it would not be going ahead with a review of its lollipop patrols, a U-turn on proposals made last year to consider replacing paid staff with volunteers in an attempt to save £100,000 a year.
The leader of the council, Bill Dixon, said he was happy that the lollipop patrols could be saved, but warned residents that the proposed savings would now have to be found by making cuts to other services.
More than 6,100 angry parents, children and teachers wrote to the council about the proposals, and campaigners submitted a 1,300-signature petition, during a ten-week consultation period ahead of the final budget meeting on Thursday.
The decision to save the service has been welcomed by campaigners and opposition councillors, who said the Labour-led authority had seen sense over the unpopular proposals.
In other parts of the region, school crossing patrols, which do not have to be provided by law, have also been under review.
Middlesbrough Council said a review into its 38 crossings had been carried out as part of the budget process.
Lesley Jackson, safe and active transport manager for the authority, said: “We have proposed that in the coming year we will remove lunchtime crossing patrols from eight sites, which are underused.
“We will also remove 12 patrols that are based on pelican crossings, although this will be done over time as people retire, so there will be no redundancies.”
Durham County Council said there were no plans to cut any of its 194 school crossing sites, but said the service was regularly under review.
A spokeswoman for Stockton Borough Council said a review into its school crossing patrols had already been made to ensure that patrols were still necessary.
She added: “There will be a reduction in numbers as people retire and are not replaced.”
Lollipop staff in Darlington were told last week that the review into their service was being scrapped and that their jobs were secure.
The council had considered replacing paid staff with volunteers and making more use of traffic lights and pelican crossings.
Helen Winn, a lollipop lady who has patrolled outside Skerne Park Primary School for 21 years, said: “We are delighted at this news. Score one for the little people. I didn’t expect there would be such a big outcry from people, but it’s about the safety of kids at the end of the day.”
Coun Dixon said: “Due to the Government funding cuts, we are in a very tough financial position and having to make some very difficult choices about services.
“But, having listened to the concerns of parents and teachers throughout the borough, we have made the decision not to go ahead with the review of school crossing patrols.
“While I am delighted we have been able to make this decision for staff, parents and teachers, regretfully we are now in the position where we will have to look to other services to see if the necessary savings can be found.”
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the Conservatives on Darlington council, said: “We are pleased that the council has seen sense on the crossing patrols in Darlington. It was not a sensible suggestion to start with.
“The budget process has been a bit of a mess and certainly the school crossing patrols were something the public felt strongly about.”
The council will debate its final budget at a meeting in the town hall on Thursday, at 6pm.