Stevenage Borough Council claims its councillors were prevented from speaking at a county council meeting about plans to cut lollipop men and women from some of the county's schools...
Hertfordshire County Council want to axe at least 17 paid crossing assistant positions, replacing them with volunteers to save over £60,000 from its billion pound budget.
At a meeting of the full county council on 17 July the proposal to replace retiring staff with volunteers, and if none are forthcoming to not replace the patrols at 17 of the county’s 157 crossings was voted through by the Conservative run council.
JACK fm understands the Liberal Democrat opposition put a motion calling on Hertfordshire County Council not to proceed with the cut.
According to the LibDems, if all 17 sites were cut including Stevenage crossings at Leys, Fairlands, Letchmore Road and Roebuck, and no volunteers found, the County Council would save £63,500 out of its £1billion budget.
Leader of Stevenage Borough Council told JACK fm: "At the county council meeting where this was discussed we were actually prevented from speaking by the Conservative group there by using a process which stopped any debate on the amendment that they put forward to push these plans through quickly.
"I find that very undemocratic of them. They should have at least allowed us all to speak on the issue. My job is to put forward the views of the people I represent and I was forbidden from doing that."
BELOW: Hear Sharon Taylor's full comments by clicking on the audio player below...
But Local Chells Division county councillor, Liberal Democrat Robin Parker told JACK fm: "To correct a fact, Stevenage councillors were not stopped from speaking on it. I spoke on it. But the Conservatives did messily cut the debate short."
After a heated debate in which the Conservative chairman of the county council, Councillor Jane Pitman reportedly curtailed debate, the move to prevent the cut was voted down by 48 against 17.
Liberal Democrat county council group leader Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst told JACK fm: "I am disgusted that for the sake of just £3,700 for each of these 17 schools, thousands of children could be put at risk if their current patrol person retires.
"This is a black day for road safety in Herts when we should be encouraging more children to walk to school."
Robin Parker added: "It will discourage walking to school, which instead we want to encourage. This cut sends all the wrong messages to parents and children.”
Sharon Batts' kids go to Knebworth School. She told JACK fm she's worried about the council's plans: "I don't like it. We rely on our lollipop man so the girls can walk across quite a busy road in Knebworth safely. As they get older I want them to walk to school but I wouldn't allow that if there wasn't a lollipop man at the school.
"I think a lot of parents would think twice about allowing their children to walk to school if it loses its lollipop person. It would make areas a lot busier because the cuts could lead to more parents feeling the need to drive their kids to school instead of let them walk in."
Young Thomas lives in Stevenage. He added: "I find it much easier to cross the road with the help of a lollipop man because it just makes me feel much safer when crossing the road.
"I think there should be a lollipop man at every school because they make a difference helping us cross the road safely.
Conservative County Councillor for Hatfield South division, who's also Executive Member for Highways & Transport has denied he or his cabinet are undemocratic. But Mr Pile has admitted he mishandled the debate in question.
BELOW: Click on the player to hear Stuart Pile being interviewed by JACK fm's Bryan Rutherford...
Statement from Stuart Pile, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport:
"Like all public sector organisations, Hertfordshire County Council has been considering which services should be prioritised in light of the current financial situation. By 2014, Hertfordshire County Council has to reduce spending by £200 million a year. We have already identified substantial efficiency savings since December 2009. However, with further savings expected to be required by 2014/15, difficult decisions have to be made in order to maintain services.
"At the Highways and Transport Panel on 3 July, councillors reviewed school crossing patrols and considered the possibility of sharing the future provision of this service with schools or other organisations. There have already been successful pilots of this around the county, for example where a local company has sponsored a school crossing patrol.
"We provide a school crossing patrol service at nearly one third of the county's primary schools, although this is not a statutory duty. Our threshold for providing school crossing patrols will remain below the national criteria, but this means that The Leys, in Stevenage, would no longer be eligible. The current service will continue to be provided and sites will only be reviewed when a crossing patrol officer leaves their job.
"We know that school crossing patrols are popular but we have to explore the options for making savings across all our services. Difficult times mean difficult decisions, none of which will be taken lightly."