#schoolsafety | Lollipop men and women face a sticky end due to council cuts

Their fluorescent coats and circular signs have made lollipop men and women an unmissable feature of even the most rain-soaked school-run, and an enduring image from countless UK childhoods.

But here are fears future generations will never benefit from these protectors of pupils, who have halted traffic on UK streets for more than 70 years. 

New figures reveal that more than 2000 of these unique safety wardens have had their roles scrapped across the country. 

The GMB union has warned that despite their work ensuring the safety of young children, council cuts could mean the end of the road for lollipop men and women. 

Concerns have been raised over the threat to pupils navigating potentially dangerous routes to school, with England, Scotland and Wales all seeing a drop in numbers.  London and the south east have lost almost half of their wardens.

GMB has blamed the falling numbers on cuts to local government funding in the past decade, with the fluorescently-clad figureheads of road safety, who were first introduced in 1937,  feeling the impact of austerity.

Government has countered the claims, saying council can expect to benefit from the the largest funding pledge in a decade, and billions will be at the disposal of the local councils who are responsible for road safety wardens. 

GMB analysed data taken from Freedom of Information submitted to councils across the country which revealed a drop in numbers nationwide.  

In 2009/10 the nationwide number of lollipop wardens stood at 7,128 in England, Scotland and Wales.  By 2017/18 this had dipped to 5,047, a decrease of 2,081. Data for Northern Ireland was not collected.  

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary, said:  “Ten years of brutal Tory austerity have left scars right across our society – and now it’s got to the point where our kids aren’t even safe walking home from school.

“No parent wants to get the call that their child has been involved in an accident, but that’s the risk council’s are taking because they are so cash-strapped.

“Austerity is a choice but councils have been left with no choice but to make savings.  Our public services need proper funding, so they can rebuild from the ruins left by a decade of savage cuts.”

Overall England, Scotland and Wales have lost 29% of its lollipop men and women since 2009/10, according to the GMB figures.

London and the south east suffered a 43% and 44% drop in number respectively, making them the worst-hit areas.  Wales and the east and west Midlands all lost around a third of their lollipop warden. The north east saw the least dramatic percentage fall, losing 13%.  

The west Midlands and the north were the worst hit regions in terms of sheer numbers patrolling children’s crossings, with drops of 386 and 378.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has stated that local councils are well-positioned to make decisions on the numbers of wardens, and these authorities will soon receive a funding boost. 

 A spokeswoman said:  “Next year, councils in England will have access to £49.2 billion – the biggest annual real-terms increase in spending power in a decade.

“Councils, not central government, are best placed to know what their communities need and are responsible for delivering services for residents.”

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