Saturday 9 January 2016

Lollipop to be axed in Birmingham?

Protest for more crossings in Birmingham 1973
Thanks to the Warwickshire Photographic Collection
Birmingham Archives & Heritage: WK/B11/5199 (110/2415)
After a campaign last year to save lollipop patrols, their viability is again being put into question following the budget consultation 2016.  The campaign last year rightly held that every child should be able to walk or cycle to school safely, and that it was the Council's responsibility to ensure this. The irony is, as well as the devestating effect of child injuries, cutting half a million pounds on lollipop patrols will end up costing Birmingham Council far more.

The costs will be in investigations, consultations and associated road improvements they will be obliged to complete following the likely increase in road accidents.  Under proposals in the consultation recently completed, one part of the council will be making a cost saving - The Place Directorate will save on employing Lollipop patrols.  Meanwhile the Transportation services, part of the Economic Directorate, will be spending more attempting to address the problems created by the cuts.

Costs of installing crossings which may replace some lollipop services, range from £10,000 to £150,000.  That doesn't include any investigation and consultation which will be required following any serious accident outside a school.   I estimate the savings proposed by cutting lollipop staff might only meet the cost of three nee crossings.  Additionally the council runs the risk of being found negligent in not providing a safe route to school, incurring huge legal costs and costs for medical treatment.  Lollipop patrol cuts will cost us dearly.

Plans proposed will place more responsibility on schools to pay for lollipop patrols, but what expertise or responsibility do schools have in providing safety on roads outside their school grounds? What school will want to take the risk of liability (or even be covered by their own liability insurance) should something go wrong?

If schools won't, will it be left to volunteers? A Lollipop man outside Wheelers Lane has been hit four times by cars outside the School. Anecdotally, all of the lollipop people I've had a chance to talk to have had a serious injury from a road accident at work - and then there's the abuse I've witnessed lollipop people get every day. Lollipop patrol staff must be hard to find - what hope is there of finding a willing volunteer?

In terms of value, Lollipop patrols don't only protect us at crossings - they provide a much needed presence outside schools.  Outside Kings Heath Primary School, the lack of a lollipop patrol on Valentine Road has led to a huge increase in seriously dangerous parking on pavements, on double yellow lines and yellow zigzag lines every day (see video below).

In 1973 Councillor Theresa Stewart (Lord Mayor in 2000) led a campaign after tragic death of 6 yr old Neil Potter in Maypole, leading to a proliferation of much needed crossings for pedestrians across Birmingham (see image from that campaign).  How many injuries or deaths will it take before Birmingham City Council recognises (again!) we need our lollipop patrols?

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