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Government gets in a muddle over school crossing patrols

9 Feb

Goverenment, both central and local, are in a big muddle over school crossing patrols. Central government claimed that local authorities would be able to make the required savings without loosing ‘front line services’ and Eric Pickles is still sticking to that line saying ‘It just goes to show that cutting front line jobs and hitting front line services isn’t inevitable– it doesn’t have to be an option at all.’

There are 93 school crossing patrol sites in Suffolk of which 62 are currently in operation and these are used by an estimated 8,000 children daily. Each crossing patrol officer is paid £6.38 per hour for 7.2 hours a week. The annual cost to the council is £174,000. Suffolk County council is about to decide the fate of these patrols and many if not all will go. So much for front line services not being hit.

In order to find out where these crossing patrols are sited I made a Freedom of Information request asking for the information. The response was patchy and much of the information which would be required for a proper assessment was missing. They promised to collect the missing information by the end of January but have not responded to my request for them to publicise it where I can download it when it is available. I have converted the patrol sites information that they did give me into a Google map from which one can easily jump to Streetview images like this one in Ipswich where the streetview car just happened to capture the crossing patrol officers as they were completing their shift.

Foxhall Road crossing – click for Google Streetview

St Edmundsbury District Council has voted to pay for the crossing patrols in their area, Ipswich Borough Council refuses to take on an services that SCC dumps At one school a head teacher was manning one crossing herself and a local estate agent has offered to sponsor another. Crossing patrol officers in Lowestoft have collected over 6,000 signatures against the cuts.

Will ‘Big Society’ help us us out with this one? Personally I am fully in support of people doing more for themselves and believe that information technology can help people do just that, however… not all jobs can or should be done by volunteers. There are big problems with used volunteers to do school crossing patrols as the authorities are now finding out to their cost.

Can the job be done by volunteers? Well, no, or possibly or.. not sure…..  According to a newspaper article crossing patrol officers needs to be employed by the council or the police authority as it is only these organisations that have the right to stop traffic.  The SCC web site is however less clear on the matter, saying “it may be possible for a school or another authority to take on a volunteer to perform the duties of a patrol. However, currently the Law is very strict on how a patrol must operate and a school or another authority would need to fulfil all the supervisory responsibilities”.

The above newspaper article also reports that the new conservative MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, has taken up the regulations with the Department of Transport and he is hoping to have a meeting with junior minister Mike Penning will allow the change.

The portfolio holder for transport for Suffolk says he hopes that the MP is successful. I can understand why, because in the mean time a crossing patrol officer has been injured in Lowestoft. The officer suffered cuts to the head and shock and a driver has been reported to the Crown Prosecution Service for careless driving. The crossing patrol, across the Yarmouth Road (A12) is one of those that will potentially go. A 6yo child was killed at the same crossing in 2007.

In summary it is a mess and both front line services and children will be at risk. A huge amounts of time is being spent trying to invent a new operational and management model against looming cuts.

Do we really want the school heads (who are paid a lot more than £6.38 per hour) operating the patrol or worrying if the supervision is adequate. Who will deal with the situation when a volunteer crossing patrol officer isn’t able to to come in to work? Will it up to the school to sort out a replacement or the estate agency who sponsor’s the patrol or another volunteer? So much for ‘no loss of front line services’.

Risk assessment relating to removing school crossing patrols

10 Dec

Following suggestions that all of the 72 school crossing patrols in Suffolk may be axed to save £230K per year I have just submitted a Freedom of Information request to the County Council requesting the sort of information that will be required assess the risk associated with removing the school crossing patrols at each of these locations. Look East highlighted the fact that this amount of money was almost exactly as the annual  salary of the chief executive at the council. Incidentally, a total of four pedestrian have been killed in the last 10 years close to one of the crossing patrols under review close to where I live.

Elf and safety is an amazing thing. A few years ago a profusion of ‘cyclist dismount’ signs were installed at great expense in Ravenswood near Ipswich along a new cycle path which no one in their right mind would follow. Now I get the impression that parents will be left to fend for themselves crossing fast 30 mph roads when the chance of death is about 50% for a pedestrian  hit by a car at that speed. If the same logic was used for car drivers as it is in Ravenswood for cyclists then car drivers would be expected to get out and push their vehicles along section of road where pedestrians were likely to cross the road! You can also get the context for the signage from Google Streetview.

Dismount again and again and again

Foxhall Road – a lethal road that needs a crossing patrol

1 Nov

Suffolk County Council recently decided that it will not replace the lollipop lady who helps parents and children who attend Britannia Road Primary School across Foxhall Road at the junction with Britannia Road. She retires next March and the currently plans are that she will not be replaced. Have then forgotten how dangerous this road is or did they never know?

Crossing patrol sign on Foxhall Road

The location of the crossing patrol with its nice new dropped kerb.

The view across Foxhall Road

However… have they forgotten that four people have been killed on Foxhall Road within the past 10 years within 100 meters of that spot and another car passenger not far away. This must make it one of the most lethal roads in the town.

For the record in 2001 a 14 year old boy was killed walking on Foxhall Road outside St Clement Hospital on 26 January 2001. Then a 22 year old man was killed walking along Foxhall Road by Dover Road on 22 March of the same year. Next it was the 18 year old passenger who died in a car crash further along the same road on 14 November 2007. Most recently  in February last year it was the turn of two women were also killed while walking along Foxhall Road.  You can check the figures using the BBC interactive casualty map.

Before you get too alarmed… Road casualty rates have been falling for 45 years. They peaked in 1966 at a staggering 7,985 in one year. The figure for 2009 is 2,222 which is the lowest since records began in 1926. During Labour’s recent term in office between 2000 and 2009 they dropped an impressive 44% (from 3,409 to 2,222) and the number of children killed fell even further (by 61%). Don’t believe me? Well check out this Wikipedia article which I helped create and follow the references back to the Department for Transport website. To give them their due, the previous conservative government also saw big falls, from 5,953 to 3,599.

My concern that the current government has pledged to ‘end the war on the motorist’ and has cut the road safety grant by 40%. They have also cut local council budgets. See this article in the Telegraph for a reasonably cynical view! Lets fight to keep this patrol also for continued progress on road safety. Why not write to your councilor or to your MP. You can do this easily from this wonderful website.  Does anyone affected wish to start a petition? If so then let me know.

Finally, here a a chart I created shows the trend in GB road fatalities since 1929 together with many of the associated road safety interventions during the period.

Fatalities on GB roads 1926-2009


My initial post incorrectly suggested that Ipswich Borough Council was responsible for this decision. They were not, this is a decision by Suffolk County Council who are the transport authority. Apologies to Ipswich Borough Council. More recently fears have been expressed that all 72 crossing patrols in the county could be axed.