STAFFORDSHIRE County Council is inviting residents to have their say on proposals to axe funding for crossing wardens. The authority is proposing to no longer fund patrols from September 2019 as it states that it needs to close a £35million budget shortfall next year.
There is already a small number of community funded patrols, including one in Tean, and the county council wants more communities to fund other crossing roles which, under the proposals, the council would still employ, train and manage, as well as provide the uniform for.
Helen Fisher, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “We have seen the cost of care soar by more than £100million in the last ten years and we must now tackle a £35million shortfall in our budget.
“This means we have no choice but to consider which non-statutory services we can continue to fund and very reluctantly this includes the school crossing patrol service.
“The patrols are all wonderful and I do hope that communities will step forward to keep as many of them as possible in the county.”
The proposals to cut the funding of crossing roles, which approximately cost £4,000 each a year, have been slated by community leaders in both Cheadle and Uttoxeter.
There are currently seven crossing patrols in Cheadle and two in Tean. Cheadle Town Mayor Ian Plant said: “I believe we are going down a very slippery slope if Staffordshire County Council believe, in their words, it is a non-statutory service. We are talking about children and parents on very busy main and side roads getting to school.
“This should not even be talked about. It’s a service that we all contribute to through our council tax. Where will the money go to? How can they say they have a £35 million shortfall? Where has the money gone?
“It seems to be that the county council is trying to cut most services under their control.
“In Cheadle we are looking again for a voluntary ground/organisation to take on the running of the library.
“At the moment, Cheadle Town Council has only talked about this but nothing has actually been put aside in the budget. If we do and the precept is put up, the community will be paying twice for a service they already contribute to.
“Where will all these cuts end? I wonder what we shall have left, say in another ten years, for our children and grandchildren to look forward too?”
Uttoxeter Town Mayor Alison Trenery also has concerns about the county council’s plans to axe the funding for crossing patrols. There are currently nine such roles in the East Staffordshire town. She said: “The county council appears to be wishing to axe funding for school crossing patrols as they are a non-statutory service and they need to make cuts.
“However in its current Vision Statement the county commits itself to ‘Ensure Children and Families….stay safe and well’. It stated priorities include ‘Delivery …of work to keep children safe from harm.’
“Here in Uttoxeter the loss of the school crossing patrols would materially increase the risk of harm to children and families. You only need to think of the example of the very busy and dangerous road junction on Stone Road close to St Joseph’s Primary School and Windsor Park Middle School.
“Given its stated priorities I am very surprised that the county council will even consider action which actively increases the risk of accidents to children, particularly younger ones or those with disabilities who find it difficult to dodge busy traffic safely.
“I am of the view that the county council should drop these proposals forthwith.”
Meanwhile Forsbrook Parish Council, which covers both Forsbrook and Blythe Bridge, have discussed a letter they have received from the county council.
Councillors, at their monthly meeting on Monday, heard that they could use section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 – “Power of local authorities to incur expenditure for certain purposes not otherwise authorised” to help fund the four crossing warden patrols in their area.
Concerns were raised that such a levy is also used for other items, such as the recent Remembrance commemorations, and that only so much per electorate could be added to the council’s precept.
It was decided that the parish council would need to discuss “at some length” the possibility of using a section 137 to fund the crossing wardens.
Residents can find out more about the county council proposals and have their say until December 31 at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/patrols
The final budget proposals for Staffordshire County Council will be presented to Full Council in February 2019.
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