New Forest Lib Dems say scrapping school crossing patrols to save £1.1m would put kids at risk
CHILDREN’S lives would be put at risk if Hampshire Council Council goes ahead with proposals to scrap school crossing patrols to save £1.1m, the New Forest Liberal Democrats have warned.
HCC’s Conservative administration is consulting on a range of cost-cutting measures which it says would meet a budget shortfall of £80m over the next two years.
One of these is the removal of crossing patrols, 21 of which are in the New Forest – although HCC stressed no decisions have yet been made.
But the Lib Dems have slammed the move as “shameful” and launched a petition to save the service.
District councillor Mark Clark, who represents Hythe and Fawley, said it was “outrageous” and children crossing busy roads need “all the protection they can get”.
Cllr Clark said his young son uses the crossing patrol on Beaulieu Road in Hythe to get to Noadswood School.
He warned: “As we come out of the pandemic, roads are bound to become busier, and removing this service will increase the chances of accidents or worse.
“We are all meant to be thinking of a greener approach. Yet this will just mean more parents resort to using their car to get their youngsters to school safely.
“Conservative county councillors should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking of removing such a vital service.”
Some of the patrols that could be affected are at Lymington Road in New Milton, Sway Road in Brockenhurst, Avenue Road in Lymington, High Street in Lyndhurst, Everton Road in Hordle, and Hampton Lane in Blackfield.
HCC acknowledged in its consultation document that withdrawing funding for all 177 patrols would impact disabled children the most, along with pupils in “less affluent areas” where schools would not have the means to meet the cost of a patrol.
It has said that in some cases there may be “opportunity and justification” for making improvements to crossings.
A spokesperson for HCC said it was “important to note that no decisions have yet been made” on options in the budget consultation.
“These are examples of a number of options which could be considered for the county council to balance its budget,” they said.
“Views submitted through the consultation will be collated and used to inform discussions at budget proposal meetings during 2021. Decisions relating to any specific services will also be subject to further, more detailed, consultation.”
Other proposals the authority is looking at include a £1 fee to use household waste and recycling centres and a £10 charge for a currently free older person’s bus pass.
Parents could have to pay for home-to-school transport, with the possibility of the provision being means-tested.
Sweeping cuts are proposed across many of the council’s services, including its in-house care service which provides around 1,095 beds across 25 residential and nursing homes, and its breaks for carers of disabled children.
Savings totalling £4.4m are also being sought within the authority’s public health team, while the child safeguarding team, which handles placements in foster care or residential homes, is being tasked with saving £2.7m.
HCC’s service supporting vulnerable young adults with learning and physical disabilities, mental health problems or substance misuse issues is proposing a cut to its budget by £8.7m.
To sign the petition, go to www.nflibdems.org.uk/save_our_school_crossing_patrols
To take part in HCC’s budget consultation, which ends on 18th July, visit www.hants.gov.uk/balancingthebudget, pick up a document at a public library or request one via email@example.com or 0300 555 1375.