Lollipop men and women face axe as council seeks £10m in cuts

Moray would be the first in Scotland to abolish the service. Picture: Lindsay Addison

Moray would be the first in Scotland to abolish the service. Picture: Lindsay Addison

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A council could become the first in Scotland to scrap school crossing patrol officers – lollipop men and women – as part of an “extreme” cost-cutting drive.

Deploying the officers, described by one parent as “the way we show young children that the world cares about them”, ceased to be a legal obligation for local authorities in 2000.

It is thought that so far no council in Scotland has done away with them altogether, though some in England have done so.

Now, however, Moray’s Council’s corporate director Mark Palmer has suggested that the Tory/Independent controlled authority, based in Elgin, could follow suit in a bid to save nearly £260,000 a year.

Mr Palmer says it is a parent’s duty, not the council’s, to ensure their children are safe.

In a report to be considered tomorrow, he says the council’s spending levels were “unsustainable” and “dramatic” service changes were needed to get rid of a £10 million budget deficit by 2018.

Mr Palmer has issued councillors with a report outlining a string of cuts that could save £4 million this year if approved.

Apart from getting rid of school crossing patrols, other suggestions include shutting six libraries and two swimming pools, scrapping a community bus scheme for rural pensioners, and cutting back on winter road clearing.

Mr Palmer said he recognised some suggestions would be “unpalatable”, but urged members to consider them as the authority battles to remain solvent.

Mr Palmer said: “It is the duty of parents to ensure their children have a safe journey to school. There is no legal obligation on local authorities to provide school crossing patrollers.”

Parents voiced concern that the move would endanger youngsters’ lives.

Elgin mother Dawn Smith, who has to walk her two young children alongside the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road to school every day, said their journey was already a perilous one, even with crossing patrollers doing their best to keep the route safe.

Ms Smith said: “The road is a death trap.”

However, yesterday council convener Allan Wright insisted that the report was intended as a “discussion paper”.

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