Derbyshire county council reject bid to save lollipop ladies

Campaigner Emma McGwyre with her children Morgan and Elizabeth
Campaigner Emma McGwyre with her children Morgan and Elizabeth

Calls to reconsider plans to drastically cut the number of lollipop men and women at crossings outside the county’s schools have been turned down by council chiefs.

During a heated debate councillors blamed each other for the situation - Labour members blaming government cuts and the Tories citing a flawed consultation process.

The row came after safety campaigner Lisa Pritchard delivered a 10,000 signature petition to the council calling for the decision to be reconsidered by the cabinet.

She said: “I am disgusted - it was just one big political fight without any thought for what is going to happen to the children. Not one of the members in the meeting has stood with us on the side of the road to see what is going on.

“We are terribly disappointed - it wasn’t about what it should have been about - it was just about money and politics.”

Earlier this year the council agreed to end the school crossing patrol service at 34 sites and not to replace them at 61 more when employees leave.

During the meeting the Conservatives proposed a motion that the cabinet reconsider the decision because of what they say was a ‘flawed consultation process’.

Coun Simon Spencer, said: “I am acutely aware of the challenges the authority faces - it is all about choices.

“But I am particularly concerned about certain aspects of the consultation process and move that this decision is revisited by cabinet.”

Campaigners had hoped the election of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn might make the cabinet rethink their approach to the cuts.

Responding, Coun Dean Collins, cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said: “We are having to find £157 million of cuts forced on this authority by this Tory government.”

“We have not taken this decision lightly and it does not sit comfortably with us at all.”

He said that the council had written to all schools to ask if they could fund the patrols and had been asked to inform parents of any changes.

He also said schools were being supported through education programmes and information packs and promised the council would keep the sites under review.

Earlier, after delivering her petition, mum-of-two Lisa had told the council how drivers often ignore unmanned zebra crossings and said the cuts would affect ‘the most vulnerable in our community’.

She asked members to take into account the views of the Derbyshire residents and put the community ‘at the heart of the decision making process’.

Before the meeting Lisa had spoken about the many lollipop men and women who had already left their jobs and the instances of near misses that had occurred ‘straight away’ as a result.

One of those former ‘lollipop ladies’ was present at the meeting.

Maxine Oliver had just left her job with the school crossing patrol at Grassmoor Primary School in Chesterfield.

She said: “They do not stand there on the road with us and see the near misses that happen every single day.

I have nearly been knocked over so many times - until they have been there and seen it for themselves they can’t understand.”