Councillor claims funding cut for Wirral's school crossing patrols could be 'legally flawed' (From Wirral Globe)
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Councillor claims funding cut for Wirral's school crossing patrols could be 'legally flawed'
A SENIOR Wirral councillor is calling on schools and governors to fight against plans to pull out of funding crossing patrols.
In a series of emails to the council’s legal officers and chief executive, Liberal Democrat Stuart Kelly points out that legally, the duty to provide and fund 'lollipop' crossing patrols rests with the council and not school governors.
However the council's chief executive says legal advice has assured him the move would be lawful.
The proposal to cut funding was discussed in recent budget deliberations as Wirral Council tried to reduce spending by £27.5m. The authority will ask schools to consider funding the patrols themselves.
But Oxton Cllr Kelly believes this proposal could be legally flawed.
He said: “The legal regulations governing school spending explicitly state that schools’ education budgets can’t be used to pay for services that the council should be providing itself – such as school crossing patrols.
“Despite this, Wirral Council is still trying to force our schools into using money that is intended to be spent on educating children to pick up the bill for the council’s own road safety responsibilities.
“It seems to me that the law explicitly forbids using a school’s budget for this purpose.
“In 2011 Dorset County Council tried the same trick, but Dorset’s schools rightly refused, the council was forced to back down and the crossing patrols stayed."
He added: “This matter needs to be discussed by Wirral’s schools forum and governing bodies as a matter of urgency.
“I call on the schools forum and governors to resist and not lose any of the money intended to provide an education for Wirral’s children.”
But Wirral Council chief executive Graham Burgess told the Globe he believes the option is legally sound.
He said: “Wirral Council’s grant will have been reduced by central Government by more than 50% by 2014/15 at the same time as demand for critical services is increasing.
“Given this massive funding reduction, some really tough decisions have to be taken.
“In this case, we have been talking not just to the schools forum but to every school affected to explore alternative funding options.
“We have taken legal advice and are confident that this option is legal.
“The safety of children is paramount and we will continue discussions with everyone affected.”
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