Seven years ago Suffolk’s lollipop men and women were being hailed by Suffolk county council as ‘greatly appreciated frontline staff’ as the golden anniversary of this wonderful, useful and CHEAP service was being celebrated.
School crossing patrols were formally recognised in Britain by the Schools Crossing Patrols Act of 1953. Lollipop people are one of only four agents entitled to stop traffic by law (The others being the police, traffic wardens and some members of the Armed Forces). Lollipop men and women have long done a fantastic job for a pittance and little thanks. But worse is to come..
Today all 98 patrols in Suffolk are being cut by order of the Suffolk County Council’s Conservative administration to save a paltry £174,000 ( that is, a mere 79% of the Suffolk CEO’s annual salary). At the very same time, SCC is adding another £2m to its roads budget which will weigh in at a truly gobsmacking £18.2 million this next financial year. You couldn’t make it up.
Do you ever get the feeling that the people running SCC have simply got their priorities well and truly WRONG? that they haven’t the faintest idea about what really matters in the real world?
Dear Cllr Pembroke, dear Cabinet: Lets get this straight. School crossing patrols – like the one run here in Woodbridge by our invaluable St Mary’s School lollipop man Terry – are not set up on a whim. No, they are established at sites where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school as assessed – not by naughty bad people who just want to irritate you – but by national guidelines (establishedby the Local Authority Road Safety Officer’s Association and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents , no less)
So they’re not what you might call a frivolity …
Ten years ago in Woodbridge the Times reports on how the (then) Woodbridge Lollipop man, Frank Howe, was knocked to the ground by an impatient driver while on patrol on Birkett Road, directly outside St Mary’s School.
“This driver was revving his engine,” Howe recalled. “I could see by the way his mouth was going that he was cursing me for keeping him. He mounted the kerb and went to pass me. His wing mirror caught me and I went down. He didn’t stop. Luckily, an off-duty policeman saw what happened and forced him to come back.
“The parents and children were very shocked, but they had taken down his registration number. He was prosecuted, given a £350 fine and eight points on his licence, but I never got an apology.”
Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet, can I ask you: has traffic become less busy in the last ten years?
The same article quotes the (then) SCC officer in charge of the School Crossing service as saying:
“We want our lollipop men and women to know just how much we appreciate them. We see them as frontline members of staff, very visible!”
What a difference seven years can make, folks.
So, Cllr Pembroke, Cabinet – let’s get this straight
- School crossing patrols were instituted and enshrined by Act of Parliament because they were needed;
- They have been running for over sixty years because they clearly continue to be needed;
- Over these years the roads have got busier and busier;
- Patrols only operate where children are in danger from road traffic when walking to and from school (this danger assessed by national guidelines);
- We want to get children out of the car and back onto their feet – to combat child obesity and encourage independence , as well as discourage the fumes and jams and road danger caused by heavy schoolrun traffic;
- patrols are very very cheap to run – £2,500 – £3,500 a year
- SCC also has (although in my opinion, totally self-serving, unrealistic and self-deluded) aspirations to be ‘the Greenest County.’
And you want to close every school crossing patrol in Suffolk to save less money than you pay your Chief Executive as basic salary???
A final question, Cllr Pembroke: What is a cynic? According to Oscar Wilde, its “A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. ”
Cllr Pembroke, you and your Cabinet need to recognise that the tiny cost of the Suffolk School Crossing patrols bears little relationship to their extraordinary value to the people of Suffolk! Let’s hope you recognise this before we all learn the hard way the truth of Wilde’s other famous quote from the same play: Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.
If you wish to encourage Cllr Pembroke and his Cabinet to change their minds , you could always write directly to the Leader of Suffolk County Council at Endeavour House, Ipswich. Closer to home, St. Mary’s School has a paper-based petition available to sign in school.
You can also add your signature to the SCC e-petition on the subject by clicking this link http://petitions.web-labs.co.uk/suffolkcc/public/Save-our-School-Crossing-Patrols