A cost-cutting scheme to reduce the number of professional “lollipop ladies” has been voted through by Conservative run Hertfordshire County Council.

At a meeting of the full county council, on 17.7.2012, the proposal to replace retiring
staff with volunteers, and if none are forthcoming to not replace the patrols at 17 of the county’s 157 crossings was agreed by the Conservative run council.

This includes crossings at Leys, Fairlands, Letchmore Road and Roebuck, all in Stevenage.

If all 17 sites were cut and no volunteers found the County Council would save just £63,500 out of its £1bn budget.

The Liberal Democrat opposition put a motion calling on the council not proceed with the cut.

Local Chells Division county councillor, Liberal Democrat Robin Parker, spoke in the debate against the cuts to crossing patrols, and in favour of his party’s motion. He said: “We should not be withdrawing the funding, and washing our hands of responsibility for these patrols, where sponsorship or volunteers are not forthcoming, and where the levels of pedestrian and vehicle traffic fall below the magic 3 million number.”

“It will discourage walking to school, which instead we want to encourage. This cut sends all the wrong messages to parents and children.”

“It will negate some gooc county council initiatives like Safer Routes To School and Walking Buses.”

“Most importantl, potentially it puts children at risk. There will be strong opposition to this from parents when they find out about it.”

“And what is it all for? £3,700 per annum per patrol or (over time) £62,900 per year across the county.”

Liberal Democrat Welwyn Garden City councillor Malcolm Cowan said he thought the scheme was a “red line” for the council and said “this is a black day for Hertfordshire”.

He added: “I thought perhaps naively that cutting school crossing patrols were a step too far for this council. I didn’t think this was the sort of area you would be looking at for cost cutting. “What this council is doing is saying, for the sake of a few thousands pounds each, we will take these crossings out. It puts children at risk and will make some parents wonder if they want their children to walk to school.The amount of saving is so trivial one wonders why people want to put children’s safety at risk for the sake of it.”

After a heated debate, in which the Conservative Chairman of the Council, Cllr Jane Pitman, curtailed debate, the move to prevent the cut was voted down by 48 against 17.

Liberal Democrat county council group leader, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, said: “I am disgusted that for the sake of just £3,700 for each of these 17 Schools, thousands of children could be put at risk if their current patrol person retires. This is a black day for road safety in Herts when we should be encouraging more children to walk to school. As each site comes up for review once someone retires we will again fight to keep the patrol and will again press for a full vote in council.”

The Liberal Democrat motion on school crossing patrols was supported by all opposition councillors present including Labour, Green and English Democrat.