A DEMAND is being made of schools to shell out more than £100,000 so lollipop men and women can keep their jobs.
Concerns had been raised about the future of Portsmouth’s school crossing patrols team as the council wants to cut £135,000 from the service.
Our council budget has been reduced by over 40 per cent, which is why we are now asking for a contribution.Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
But Tory council leader Donna Jones says there is ‘absolutely no prospect’ of patrollers losing their jobs as she’s going to ask schools to make up the money the authority wants to save so their work continues.
The council says it covers all the costs of providing for patrollers – but there are many other areas in the UK where schools make a contribution or pick up their entire bill.
But critics say schools cannot be made to pay and already have tight budgets.
Cllr Jones said: ‘I am going to be speaking to headteachers in the city to ask them to contribute towards the costs from their dedicated budget.
‘Schools’ budgets have been protected and it was announced last week that they will get an additional £10bn nationally between now and 2020.
‘Our council budget has been reduced by over 40 per cent which is why we are now asking for a contribution.’
‘I have campaigned long and hard for school crossing patrols over the years and there is absolutely no prospect of us cutting any posts. We are the most densely populated city outside London and they do a very valuable job to keep traffic flowing and children safe.’
The move comes as the council seeks to put council tax bills up by four per cent in order to cover a £2bn bill it may be faced with else, ensuring care workers get put on an improved national living wage from next year.
The authority is also seeking to cut £16m from its overall budget next year – £6m of which has to be clawed back as that’s the amount overspent in the children and education and adult social care departments.
Rival councillors say piling the burden on schools is unfair as the government has decided not to increase their budgets in line with inflation.
Cllr Rob Wood, Lib Dem education spokesman, said: ‘We could see many school crossing patrol officers losing their job. Many parents are worried about allowing their children to walk to school, and without school crossing patrols more parents may drive their children. This is bad for road safety and this cut should be stopped.’
Figures last year revealed almost a third of crossing patrols in the city were empty as the council struggled to recruit.
SCHOOL CROSSING PATROLLER RECRUITMENT DRIVE
Last year, The News helped launch a campaign with Portsmouth City Council to recruit more people to fill vacant crossing patrol positions outside schools across the city.
It came after parents and social workers in the city feared children’s lives were being put at risk due a shortage in lollipop men and women to protect them crossing roads going to and from school.
The council said there were 22 vacancies which needed to be filled, some of which had been vacant for more than a year.
On the back of the campaign launch, the council received 57 requests for application forms and nine people were offered positions after interviews.
However, the council yesterday refused to provide The News with a full list of vacant school crossing patroller positions.