Moray’s Conservative group has called for the reinstatement of crossing patrollers in parts of the region where children face “difficult and risky” trips to and from school.
The local authority became the first in Scotland to scrap lollipop men and women in 2019, saving £120,000 at a time when it faced serious financial troubles.
However, the move was met with a severe backlash from some parents, with posters even attached to lampposts in Lossiemouth accusing council officials of “gambling with children’s lives“.
Conservative councillors have said concerns continue to be raised to them more than two years after the decision came into effect, and have warned of a “huge inequity” between schools that can be accessed safely and those that cannot.
Group leader Tim Eagle said: “The Conservative group always recognised the precarious financial position the council was in when this decision was made, but on balance were not supportive of the total cut to the service. It was hoped that mitigation could include the installation of crossing points as well as park smart initiatives.
“However, over the last few years it has become obvious that despite the best efforts of staff mitigation is not easy or works in every situation.
“That’s why this year we will seek for school crossing patrollers to return to schools where no crossing can be installed or there are not suitable and safe crossing locations.”
‘Removal has caused a huge issue’
Frank Brown, who represents Elgin North, added: “Morriston Road in Elgin is a classic example of where the removal of school crossing patrollers has caused a huge issue.
“I know there are similar stories in areas like Lossiemouth, Buckie and Forres.
“Morriston Road is very busy with Moray’s biggest high school and a large primary next door to each other.”
In May, Kinloss mother Becky Black urged the council to bring back school crossing patrollers after her nine-year-old son John was hit by a car outside the village’s primary school gates.
Moray MP Douglas Ross wrote to Moray Council to ask about plans to introduce safety measures outside the school, such as speed checks and a pedestrian crossing.
Lee Nicholls, who previously worked as a school crossing patroller at Clunie Primary in Buckie, said he had been in regular contact with councillors to raise concerns about children’s safety.
He said: “I enjoyed my job helping the young people of Cluny primary cross the busy intersection near Queen Street.
“This was a very busy road often with cars not just related to the primary school but the high school and the leisure centre. I am aware that many parents would feel much safer having a school crossing patroller back.”
Issue to be discussed in coming weeks
Council leader Graham Leadbitter, from the SNP, said: “The removal of crossing patrollers was an extremely difficult decision for all councillors at a time when the budget was under significant pressure.
“It is too early to say what the budget will be, as the Scottish Government budget is not presented until December, but I believe this will feature in coming weeks as we approach the council budget in February.
“While it is easy for some councillors to call for reinstatement, what we don’t tend to see is suggestions of what funding will be cut to pay for that.
“However, this is an issue that will be discussed in coming weeks.”