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School crossing patrols under threat as council looks to fill £35m budget shortfall

By Alex Ross | Staffordshire | Politics | Published:

The council is also set to make back office redundancies and increase council tax.

Philip Atkins

School crossing patrols across Staffordshire are under threat as part of the county council’s plans to bridge a £35 million shortfall in its budget for next year.

The council is looking to stop paying for the 248 patrols and will instead urge businesses and communities to pick up the task under its proposals for 2019/2020

Redundancies from a review of back office support staff will take place as well as a reduced grass-cutting service.

Speaking to the Express & Star, council leader Philip Atkins acknowledged he would be taking flak over some of the plans, but the council said could not afford to keep up all non-statutory services against a rising bill for adult and children’s care and had a legal duty to deliver a balanced budget.

He said: “We have to concentrate our funding on those people we do have to care for.

WATCH Philip Atkins explain the cuts:

Staffordshire County Council announces cuts to services

“There is about 4,000 elderly people in care homes, there is 1,500 with learning difficulties that we have to care for, 1,100 looked after children and about 3,500 children at risk.

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“These are the people that the county council has to legally, statutory protect and look after, they are the vulnerable.”

School crossing patrols cost between £3,000 and £4,000 a year to fund. By not providing the service, the council would save £290,00 in 2019 and £250,000 the following year.

Businesses and community groups are to be encouraged to provide the crossings, and would be given uniforms, lollipop sticks and training by the council.

Parish and town councils could also make a case for pelican crossings, he added

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'Parents will step up'

He said: “I can understand parents being concerned about getting the children to school safely but there are ways they can help themselves and help the community at the same time.

“The issue is we will still provide the uniforms, the stick and the management and training. It is just that we won’t pay the £3,500 to £4,000 which every school crossing patrol is receiving.”

He added: “The school’s responsibility is at the school gate, it is a parental responsibility that your children make it to school. I’m certain that mums, dads, neighbours will step up to the plate.”

“I am expecting flak because from every school crossing patrol there is a number of children, parents and grandparents involved in it, but what I am saying is there are other solutions you could use and do.

“And let’s have a considered view about how we can help each other and support our communities.”

Redundancies

A review of the back office support staff, which include human resources and communications workers, is set to save around £3m.

Councillor Atkins said the public would not see the impact of redundancies, but could not say how many there will be.

He said: “There are services that we do have which are quite hidden in the background and to support the council it is quite proper that we review the services. The number of redundancies is too soon to say, but there will be some.”

Grass cutting services provided by the county council will be reduced, saving £400,000. Councillor Atkins said it would be up to community groups and parish councils to make up any loss in service.

The council says it will make £200,000 in increased parking charges and bus lane enforcement. Plans are in place for a camera in Stafford town centre.

Councillor Atkins held a briefing on the budget, which will go before councillors ahead of possible implementation in April. Council tax is set to rise 2.95 per cent.

He said: “We knew we would have substantial pressure for the following year. The pressures come from adult social care and the other is children’s services.

“People are living longer, that’s the good news, but unfortunately quite a number of older people are needing extra care and attention in care homes and so whereas 10 years ago we were spending £200m, last year it was £300m, next year it will be £315m”

The council’s final proposals and budget will be presented to Full Council in February once the full national funding is known.

Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
Investigations Editor - @alexross_star

Investigations Editor at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.

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