On Wednesday, 4 July, the Finance and Corporate Resources Overview & Scrutiny Committee of Wandsworth Council voted by 7 votes to 3 to end Council funding for all School Crossing Patrols from the start of the school term in January 2013. One Conservative Councillor noted wryly that, with this decision (to be confirmed by the Executive on the 5th), he and his colleagues were following in the wake of much derided ‘Labour Lambeth’ and becoming only the second Council in London to end public funding for the patrollers. These affectionately named ‘lollipops’ are the men and women who for half a century have been a source of security and friendly smiles on our streets.
Because of the costs of redundancy, there will be almost no net financial saving in the current financial year. The minority of Labour Councillors, therefore, put forward an amendment to instruct officers to examine each school crossing site to see where patrollers might safely be removed and to suggest to the Committee’s November meeting alternatives like controlled crossings and 20mph zones across each school’s catchment area. This was debated. One or two Conservative Councillors agreed with some of the points being made. But when the vote was called, that old destroyer of community consensus and reasoned decisionmaking — tribal voting on party lines – resulted in the officer’s recommendation to end funding being accepted.
What will happen now? The Department of Environment and Community Services is supposed to talk to each of the 44 schools affected after the summer holidays. They will explore whether a school can finance its crossing patrollers from that small part of its school budget that is not restricted, or recruit volunteers, or get commercial sponsorship. The Director’s report (Paper 12-437) makes clear, however, that no firm offer of sponsorship has been received in the past 12 months, and that volunteers for this purpose are near impossible to organise on a reliable basis. We can therefore expect a future with almost no ‘lollipops’ surviving on our local streets. Instead, our roads may become more congested in the mornings as more parents ferry their children to school by car. And, particularly in the poorer parts of the borough where parents do not that option, only the future will tell whether more children are hit by moving vehicles.