Parents across Altrincham have attacked the Council’s “disgraceful” plans to withdraw funding for lollipop men and women – as the number of people signing a petition protesting at the move hit 1,000.
Changes to how the 77 school crossing patrols in the borough are funded have been proposed as part of Trafford’s 2017/18 budget, which is currently the subject of a public consultation.
The council has to save £22m next year and cutting the patrols would save £350,000, with schools or community groups potentially footing the bill for a replacement service.
A petition against the move – Save Our School Crossing Patrollers – has been signed by over almost 1,200 people.
One parent, Dan Roan, said that he was in no doubt that losing Paul, the lollipop man close to his son’s Bowdon school, would lead to “serious injuries and potentially deaths”.
“The suggestion that Paul won’t be there makes my blood boil,” he said.
“His presence is essential for the safety of children and parents, and I’m sure there are lots of other patrol staff who are just as depended on as he is. Hundreds of pupils depend on him every day.
“I’ve seen a number of close misses involving children in the year I’ve been a parent at the school, and that number’s only going to increase. I think it’s a disgrace.”
Roan, who works for BBC News, said that while he appreciated that local authority budgets were stretched, school crossing patrols should be seen as an “essential service”.
He highlighted one road in particular that was already a blackspot for children and parents on their way to schools in the Bowdon area.
“The pavements on South Downs Road are very narrow and it’s used as a rat run by people on their way to work who are trying to avoid going through Hale,” he said.
“I’ve no doubt there will be serious injuries and potentially deaths if you don’t have somebody to help parents and pupils to cross the road.
“It’s about priorities – yes there are other demands, but I can’t think of a service that’s more essential to protect.”
Roan’s words were echoed by parents in other parts of Altrincham.
Chris Heywood, from Timperley, agreed that any cuts to the service would be “bordering on dangerous”.
“It beggars belief,” he said. “Anyone passing by a school in the morning or afternoon can see just how critical lollipop men and women are to ensuring kids get on their way home safely.
“Roads such as Park Road in Timperley are busy all day long, but especially during the school run. Cutting this service would be short-sighted bordering on dangerous.”
And Ben Parker, from Hale, added: “As a father of two boys at St Ambrose I would be genuinely gutted to see our lollipop man go – he’s a legend and there in all weathers with a smile on his face. The council has to find a way to protect him and all the others who provide such a valuable service. Surely our children’s safety must be the priority?”
Trafford Council originally tried to cut patrols two years ago before backing down after an outcry from parents.
Cllr Michael Hyman, Executive Member for Children’s Services at Trafford Council and the councillor for the Bowdon Ward, insisted the safety of children was “extremely important” and said the council was looking into alternative means of funding the patrols.
He told us: “I appreciate that it is a hugely sensitive issue and we want to find a way whereby we can ensure there is a safe way for children to cross, so for that reason we are exploring a number of avenues that would help us to maintain some kind of service.”
He said it was “unlikely” that the council would look to the schools to fund patrols themselves as “their budgets are under as much pressure as the Council”.
“An important point to make is that other Greater Manchester authorities have scrapped the schools crossing patrol service, but we do want to find a way where we can maintain a level of service.
“We will do the very best we can to try and ensure there is, but I can’t give an assurance while we are still trying to find a solution to the situation.”