THE county’s “guardian angels”, the army of lollipop staff who help youngsters cross busy roads, are celebrating a reprieve this week.
Despite proposed multi-million pound cuts to council services, their service is one of the few to have had money put back into it.
Previously £483,875 cuts had been approved for 2016/17, but now councillors are being recommended to pay the full costs of the service - some£1.5m for the next three years.
It means that lollipop men and women will continue to be on duty at some 350 plus sites around the county - many directly outside schools.
Headmaster Mr David Fann, county spokesman for headteachers’ association the NAHT, said: “It’s great news for the children of Lancashire. The road crossing patrols provide a fantastic service for our children . They can go to and from school safely across very busy roads. We’re delighted with this.”
He has two patrols outside his school, Sherwood Primary, Fulwood and said: “They are brilliant.”
His happiness was echoed by one of the crossing team Genevieve Allen, who said: “I think it is very important for all those children crossing - especially here at Sherwood school because crossing is dangerous.”
County Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “We are having to do some pretty horrendous things in terms of making savings but we’ve been able to find it (the funding) out of the health and wellbeing budget.”
He said he knew many councillors were keen to find a way to continue the service.
County Coun Azhar Ali, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Our school crossing patrols perform a vital role in helping children and parents get to school safely, and we’re fortunate to have so many dedicated people prepared to work year-round in all weathers.
“We’re proposing to protect this service for the next two years but I can’t make any guarantees beyond this as by 2017/18 we will only just have enough money to fund statutory services.
“If government cuts continue at the current rate it will be impossible to continue to fund, but we’re proposing to secure the service in this budget round as we realise how vital it is to road safety.”
For veteran lollipop lady Irene Reid MBE there was a special reason to celebrate. She said: “That’s wonderful, obviously I think it’s great.I know they’ve got to make cuts but you’ve also to be sensible. We’re talking about children’s safety here - that’s paramount”
She said different age groups used her crossing outside Longridge CE primary school on Berry Lane, from infants with parents, to older junior school children allowed to cross because parents know a patrol is there, to high school students glad of a safe place to cross. She revealed an ambition to carry on crossing: “Apart from that I need to stay (on Berry Lane) another three years then I’ll have got 50 years in!”
Many school crossing patrols aren’t attached to a specific school but are at sites which have been identified as necessary through criteria including statistics on traffic volumes and the numbers of children crossing.
Elaine Cotterell of the Lancashire branch of public services union Unison said: “Obviously the safety of children is paramount.”
The council will consider proposals for another £65m cuts in 2016/2017 this week. Its recommendations for cuts in budgets ranging from highways to libraries are due to be debated by tomorrow’s executive scrutiny committee and Thursday’s cabinet meeting.