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Standing up for lollipop people amid the cuts

March 27, 2011

Earlier this month Annette Brooke, the MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, secured a short Parliamentary debate to raise the issue of cuts to school crossing patrol staff.

Dorset County Council’s plans to cut 65 posts have sparked a vigorous local campaign which has highlighted the benefits of lollipop people, but also the minimal savings that would result from the cut – as campaigners have pointed out, funding the lollipop people’s posts costs 0.03% of the County Council’s total annual budget.

Annette Brooke emphasised the impact that removing the lollipop people would have on how likely children were to walk or cycle independently to school. She used her speech to explore some of the other options that have been suggested for keeping the posts – including volunteers getting involved as school crossing patrols, schools paying for lollipop people from their budgets and parish councils raising the money – but noted that these would present huge difficulties in practice, concluding that ‘We are discussing vulnerable children who should be walking and cycling to school where practicable. The cut is small in relation to the county council’s budget, achieves nothing and destroys a lot.’

The Local Transport Minister, Norman Baker, held to the line that it has to be up to democratically elected councils to make the decisions that they feel are best for their area, pointing out the new Local Sustainable Transport Fund that the Government has made available. But he used the occasion to ‘pay tribute to the men and women all over the country who work as school crossing patrol officers-our much-loved lollipop men and women’, saying that ‘They have seen the children grow up and then bring their own children to school, and they are remembered with affection by those of us young enough to have benefited from their help’.

That’s why lollipop people are this week’s neighbourhood hero. But as both Annette Brooke and Norman Baker hinted at, the issue is even wider. This period of radical political change is the time to ask a crucial question: what kind of neighbourhoods do we want to live in? If we want neighbourhoods where everyone, young and old alike, can walk independently and confidently down sociable, well-designed streets to get where they need to go, we need to stand up for them.

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