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Save our lollies in Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 11:57 07 January 2011

Lollipop men and women have been told that their positions are to be scrapped.; Lollipop lady Lian Shepherd (correct) working in Oulton Broad.

Lollipop men and women have been told that their positions are to be scrapped.; Lollipop lady Lian Shepherd (correct) working in Oulton Broad.

Archant © 2011

DRESSED in fluorescent jackets, and armed with the familiar 'lollipop' sign, school crossing patrols have long been a feature on our roads, helping thousands of young children and their parents to complete their journeys safely.

But their future is at risk from council cuts – and patrollers in Lowestoft are fighting back.

Suffolk County Council revealed last month that it was reviewing the role of all of its crossing patrols as part of its cost-saving plans.

And, over the school Christmas holidays, a letter was sent out to tell staff that their jobs were at risk.

The proposal is to scrap all of the 60 positions in Suffolk, as well as four relief positions, saving approximately £174,000.

In total there are 14 in Lowestoft, one in Beccles, and three in Bungay – although two of these are vacant.

Now patrollers in Lowestoft are getting together to campaign against the proposals.

Lian Shepherd, 63, of Cowslip Crescent, in Carlton Colville, is one of those involved.

She said: “It is not our jobs we are bothered about, as the majority of us would do it for nothing.

“It is the children that are going to be at risk that we are worried about.”

Mrs Shepherd, who helps children and their parents cross Cotmer Road, Oulton Broad, received her letter on Christmas Eve. However, the children at nearby Elm Tree Primary School were told before Christmas.

“Some of them started crying. It was upsetting,” she said. “I dread to think what the last day will be like.”

The patrollers work from 7.45am-9am and 3pm-4pm each school day, for £6.38 an hour.

The average pay is £2,232 per year.

Maureen Gook, 73, has been doing the job for 20 years, having previously been a dinner lady.

Mrs Gook, lives at Colville Road, Oulton Broad, where she also works, and said that she might have to move.

“I would just have to move because, if a child gets killed here, I would never forgive myself,” she said.

It is estimated that over 8,000 children use the crossings daily in Suffolk, and this week parents in Oulton Broad told the Journal how “horrified” and “devastated” they were at the news of the cuts.

Tracy Moore, of Cotmer Road, who walks her children Ella, six, and Jake, eight, to school every day, said: “I think it is a real shame.

“Big 4x4s don’t even slow down for the lollipop, and there are lorries from the A12 on this road.

“Until a child is killed something won’t get done about it.”

Tracy Hammond, of Long Meadow Walk, also walks her children Madison, eight, Jenson, six, to school.

She said: “Next year my daughter wanted to walk in herself, but there is no way I will let her now.

“Everyone is of the same opinion that they won’t let them come by themselves when there are no lollipops.”

An online petition has also been started against the cuts and the crossing patrollers are to meet with council officials next week.

Guy McGregor, county portfolio holder for roads and transport, said: “Proposals relating to the future of the school crossing patrol service will be considered by full council on February 17.

“All the school crossing patrols were notified before Christmas of meetings planned for January which mark the beginning of a staff consultation process relating to these proposals.

“The county council appreciates the dedication and commitment of all school crossing patrol staff.”

Tomorrow morning the patrollers will be taking to Lowestoft town centre to get more support for their campaign. Their petition is online at www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveourlollipops

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