06 May 2005

Belfast Telegraph

School patrol talks in chaos

By Claire Regan
06 May 2005

Confusion was today hanging over a meeting of education bosses in Belfast after it was claimed that a controversial decision on the future of lollipop services is not due to be discussed as planned.

Members of the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) are to meet this morning to conclude a meeting on proposals to axe dozens of patrols across the city after it was abandoned last Thursday when four councillors walked out.

It was expected that the minutes of the general purposes and finance committee, which were being discussed at the time of the walk-out, would be either rubber-stamped or rejected at today's meeting.

The proposals, which have caused public outrage, include cuts to 54 lunchtime patrols along with 14 at post-primary schools and 38 on roads where there is also a pelican crossing or traffic lights.

But according to BELB vice chairman Jim Rodgers, notification of the agenda received by members does not include any mention of the matter.

The Ulster Unionist, one of the councillors who walked out leaving the meeting with too few members to continue, has sought legal advice on where the matter stands.

"The discussion on the proposed cuts to the school crossing patrol service was not completed when the meeting was stopped," he said.

"I have taken legal advice and my understanding is that when the meeting resumes, it has to take up where it left off. We're not finished - this issue is not just dead and buried.

"A proposal I had on the floor to reject the cuts, that was never voted on, still stands. Clearly a problem has arisen."

The Belfast Telegraph is planning to hand over the remaining petitions signed by readers in response to the Save Our Lollipop Service at this morning's meeting. We presented members with 2,630 signatures at last week's meeting. That total has now grown to over 3,600.

The campaign was launched by this paper in response to public disquiet over plans which were drawn up in a bid to save almost £300,000 as part of a package of cuts of almost £7m reluctantly passed by BELB to cope with a budget shortfall imposed by the Department of Education. The total stripped from services across the five education boards hit £30m.

Politicians, road safety experts, leading trade unions, school leaders, lollipop people and parents' groups have joined our calls for members to abandon the proposals.

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