A SENIOR politician says Wirral Council is “holding a gun” to the heads of schools over plans to pull out of funding crossing patrols.
A letter from the council’s environment and regeneration department has been sent to headteachers and governors of the 92 schools that have crossing patrols asking them to hand over money to keep their lollipop patrol.
The letter, signed by chief officer Mark Smith, calls on heads to make a contribution towards the cost of running the crossing service for the year – each school being asked to pay £4,706.
Senior Lib Deb councillor Stuart Kelly told the Globe is calling on schools to object to what he described as a “gun held to their heads” approach.
Schools have been given until February 5 to respond , those who do not will be assumed to not support the proposal.
The letter states: “If a collective agreement cannot be achieved for all schools then this would either lead to the remainder of schools incurring greater charges to keep the service running or the removal of school crossing patrols from the points no longer supported by the schools concerned.”
Councillor Kelly said: “I am shocked at the threatening tone of this letter to school headteachers and governors,” he said.
“Last week the council were telling us children’s safety was paramount, this week they are threatening schools with withdrawing their crossing patrols.”
The proposal to cut funding was discussed in recent budget deliberations as Wirral Council tries to reduce spending by £27.5m.
Councillr Kelly believes the legal duty to provide and fund "lollipop" crossing patrols rests with the council and not school governors.
But council chief executive Graham Burgess told the Globe legal advice had assured him the move would be lawful.
He said: “Wirral Council's grant will have been reduced by central government by over 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.
“The choice that headteachers are being asked to make in response to this letter is based on options identified by the Schools Additional Services Management Board.
"Their suggestion that we seek to come to a collective agreement is one that we are very hopeful that all 92 schools will be happy with and initial feedback so far has been that they are.
“With regard to legalities, the advice we have received means we are confident that what we are doing is legal.
"The safety of children is paramount and we will continue to work with the schools affected.”
Councillor Kelly concluded: “Putting aside the legality issue, I think it is morally wrong of the council to write to schools in this manner threatening to take away from children a safe means of crossing busy roads if they don’t pay up.
“I think schools need to question the legal and moral basis behind this and object to this gun being held to their heads approach.
“I do not believe the council would dare remove more than 100 school crossings and put children in danger.”