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Volunteers could soon become school crossing patrollers in Aberdeenshire

By Kirstie Topp - Local Democracy Reporter

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Volunteers across Aberdeenshire could soon be able to give up their spare time to take on the role of school crossing patrollers.

It comes after the council axed the vital posts as part of harsh budget cuts last month.

Cutting the region’s patrollers will save the local authority £436,000 over the next year.

Volunteers could soon become school crossing patrollers in Aberdeenshire.
Volunteers could soon become school crossing patrollers in Aberdeenshire.

The region’s beloved lollipop men and women will remain in place until schools break up for the summer holidays.

But the decision was met with uproar from concerned parents who were worried the move would put their children at harm.

A petition, which has since gathered more than 3500 signatures, was set up urging the council to overturn the decision.

Petitioners claimed the service was “absolutely essential” and removing it would put children “at risk”.

Dozens of protestors even gathered in Portlethen earlier this month to show their support for the service.

However, council leader Gillian Owen believes it is up to parents and carers to ensure pupils get to school safely.

“There are only crossing patrollers in 35 of our 149 primary schools currently,” she explained.

“We are by no means the only council to have removed or to be considering removing this service.

“That said, Aberdeenshire Council will continue its road safety educational programmes in schools and discuss the potential for additional traffic calming and/or roads safety measures.”

The Tory councillor stressed that community empowerment was key to ensuring the council could transform the way it provides services and make further savings.

So could kind-hearted volunteers take on the role of the region’s beloved lollipop men and ladies?

Mrs Owen says it is possible.

She stated: “Absolutely, community based schemes could provide real value to those who would like a service to be retained.”

But how would this work?

We have asked Aberdeenshire Council for more details but have yet to hear back.

However, Hertfordshire County Council and Devon County Council currently run similar road crossing volunteer schemes.

Residents in Hertfordshire don’t need any previous experience and are asked to give up 35 minutes of their time in the morning and afternoon five days a week.

Meanwhile in Devon, volunteer school crossing marshals are “employed” and managed by schools.

They can be placed in a location where there currently isn’t a patroller or can cover during staff absence.

As well as the school crossing patrollers, Aberdeenshire Council made various other cuts in a bid to plug a £35.45 million black hole.

But despite making these savings, Mrs Owen said the local authority is focused on investing in its communities.

Over the next year, Aberdeenshire Council will spend just over £753 million delivering front line services across the region.

The council leader also hit out at claims young people in Aberdeenshire would be most at risk following the cuts.

She explained: “We are spending over £400 million on education services – so reports of ‘children being hardest hit’ in our budget is simply not true.

“Savings taken is around one per cent of education budgets.

“Education is by far the highest percentage of our annual budget and we continue to invest in our young people as our highest priority.”

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