City chiefs put a stop to lollipop axe move

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PROPOSALS to axe more than a third of the Capital's lollipop men and women and social work teams in hospitals have been rejected by city leaders amid concerns about the impact on child welfare.

Council officials had proposed removing 76 of the 180 school crossing patrols in a bid to save 300,000 a year.

They also wanted to make a 399,000 saving by ditching dedicated social work teams working from the Royal Edinburgh, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Sick Kids.

But the Liberal Democrat/SNP administration today announced that it had ditched both proposals.

Details of the decision came a day ahead of a meeting in the City Chambers that will set the full council budget for 2011/12.

It is expected to include tens of millions of pounds of cuts.

It also emerged today that all council workers in Edinburgh have been warned that they could face redundancy unless more of them volunteer to take unpaid career breaks or cut their hours.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said: "We had three tranches of proposals put to us and those were directors' means of achieving the savings they had to find in their departments. We looked through those line by line, asked for more information about the impact on some, while there were some that right away looked unacceptable. Some of them, like school crossing patrols, we felt that we could not accept. We could not afford to have a level of risk to children's safety."

The proposal would have meant that all lollipop men and women who operate signal-controlled sites would be axed.

Transport leader Gordon Mackenzie added: "We said at the outset we would take a lot of convincing to accept this proposal and the arguments put forward came nowhere close."

The hospital social work saving was rejected following consultation with the NHS and members of the council's social work team.

Education leader Marilyne MacLaren had praised the strength of the teams that work in the hospitals and react quickly to crisis situations.

Councllor Dawe said: "When we saw this proposal, most of us were a bit uneasy because we were not sure how that service would be delivered if dedicated hospital social work teams were not there."

The full administration proposals are not due to be unveiled until a meeting tomorrow. Meanwhile, in an e-mail to their 20,000 staff, council chiefs have pleaded for more people to volunteer for reduced working hours, unpaid leave or career breaks.

It emerged today that people who have already come forward since last year have saved the authority 1.46 million.Director of corporate services Jim Inch said: "The savings required next year assume significant reductions in staffing costs. These are achievable but not without risk and any further voluntary measures. A range of measures are being used to help achieve this and minimise the need for redundancies.

"These include recruitment controls, deleting vacant posts, ending temporary contracts and reducing agency and overtime working and restructuring to reduce the number of management posts."


A MASS protest against council cuts is set to take place tomorrow - as opposition councillors are set to demand a pay rise for low-paid staff.

Trade union Unison has organised the protest, from 8.30am until 9.30am tomorrow, to coincide with councillors turning up at the City Chambers to set the budget.

Dozens of staff are expected to use flexi-time to attend, with banners and placards protesting against the cuts.

Meanwhile, the Labour opposition group is to call for a "living wage" to be introduced at the city council.

The Scottish Living Wage Campaign, run by the Poverty Alliance, urges organisations to offer a wage of at least 7.15 an hour to all workers.

Labour has called for the proposal, which would cost the council 3.3 million a year, to be introduced in the second half of next year.

Group leader Andrew Burns said: "We feel we can easily accommodate the potential cost of giving our council staff a living wage.

"The gap between the highest and lowest paid has become too wide.

"Low-paid workers and their families are suffering the most from government cuts already and a living wage, which is do-able, would help."