Lollipop cuts are declared unacceptable by petitioners prompting a council review

By Ted Peskett - Local Democracy Reporter

23rd Jun 2024 | Local News

Petitioners who called proposed lollipop lady cuts in the Vale unacceptable have urged the council to think carefully in a review of the service.

More than 100 residents signed a petition opposing initial council plans to review the roles of lollipop ladies in March 2024 in order to help it save millions of pounds.

Vale of Glamorgan Council said it will continue its review, but reassured councillors and residents that there are no immediate plans to cut staff.

One petitioner, Paula King, who spoke at a council environment and regeneration scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday, June 18 said their lollipop lady in St Athan has kept children safe for 13 years.

Ms King said: "She gives the children reassurance and teaches them how to cross safely.

"Without her, I know that parents would not let their children walk or cycle to school on their own, and that means their independence is taken away and more parents will end up driving to school."

Vale of Glamorgan Council, like local authorities across the UK, has had to grapple with growing budget gaps over recent years.

This year, the council has been left to bridge a gap worth £7m due to rising costs and an increase in demand on its services.

In a budget setting process described as one of the most challenging the local authority faced in years, Vale of Glamorgan Council looked to non-statutory services like the school crossing patrol service to make cuts.

About £100,000 worth of potential savings per year were identified in the school crossing patrol service and 11 members of staff were informed that they would be affected by the review.

Petitioners and councillors argued that the original proposal would make a small saving in comparison to what would be lost.

Ms King added at Tuesday's scrutiny committee meeting: "We surely must all agree that a child's life is worth more than the amount of money said to be saved by this cut."

The schools affected by the review include:

  • St Illtyd Primary School
  • Llantwit Comprehensive School
  • Ysgol Dewi Sant
  • Ysgol y Draig
  • St Athan Primary School
  • Ysgol Gymraeg Sant Curig
  • St Helens Catholic Primary and Infant School
  • Dinas Powys Primary School
  • Cogan Primary School
  • Peterston Super Ely Church in Wales Primary School

The council's director of environment and housing services, Miles Punter said schools were asked if they would be able to take on the school crossing patrol service themselves, either in part or in full.

Mr Punter added that the schools wrote back to explain that they had budget challenges of their own.

He said: "They recognise how important the service is and they would like to help if they could but they are unable to."

The department has found £85,000 of the £100,000 it needs to save from "other sources" according to the council official.

Mr Punter said the continued review will look at whether there are any opportunities to improve or install crossings at school sites and see whether a reduction in staff over time through a "natural process" is appropriate or not.

He added: "We have spoken to the staff concerned. They were clearly worried about their jobs and we have hopefully put their minds at rest."

The number of lollipop ladies working for the council has reduced over the past 15 years.

Only a few years ago, Mr Punter said the number of lollipop ladies was at 30.

Some of the reasons behind the reduction in staff was put down to the introduction of crossings and 20mph zones.

A council report also states that many posts were not replaced when staff retired.

One member of the council's environment scrutiny committee, Cllr Mark Hooper, commended the petitioners for highlighting their concerns irrespective of the council's decision to continue its review.

However, he cautioned against the idea of replacing lollipop ladies with crossings, pointing out that they are an essential part of the community.

He added: "I think that services like these need to be protected at the highest possible level."

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