Sunday 5 June 2011

School Crossing Patrols - a matter of life or death

I had a shock when someone told me that Cllr James Powney had blogged that he agreed with me about something. LINK I feared that I would lose all my friends in the Brent Labour Party as a result. I was reassured when I read his posting. He is at pains to write, "I disagree with much of what he says, most of the time". Phew, that's all right then!

He agreed that the Scrutiny and Overview Committee was used for political grandstanding rather than meticulous examination of policy proposals but sees that only in terms of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative opposition. Of course it also applies to the Labour administration and to Labour councillors who sit on the Committee.

I referred in my article to a Willesden and Brent Times  editorial that argued it has been residents who voted for councillors who have ended up doing the councillor's work by airing concerns about controversial decisions at council meetings.  The local press, especially the Willesden and Brent  Times, have been proactive in covering the council cuts and the library closures issue. Cllr Powney however, accuses them of being weak in not exposing Liberal Democrat hypocrisy. Strange really when the WBT editorial was commenting on its own story about poor attendance at council meetings of some Liberal Democrat and Conservative politicians.

My article covered various issues to do with local democracy LINK not least that of consultation. This is an issue that was controversial under the previous Lib Dem-Con coalition (remember the Wembley Academy consultation?) as well as the current Labour administration.

The latest example is the short consultation, over a school holiday, on the cutting of school crossing patrols. I have an interest because I kicked up a fuss about the lack of one outside Park Lane Primary School in Wembley when I worked there. The school is on a sharp bend and it is hard to see traffic coming in either direction (it used to be called Blind Lane before being re-named) and it is on several bus routes. We eventually won a patrol and Tracey, the officer appointed, became a much-loved member of the school community.

This is one of those issues which is literally a matter of 'life and death' (or serious injury) and one that deserves serious consideration. It is not enough to say that if schools are concerned they can pay for their own crossing patrol out of their hard-pressed annual budgets. The council has a responsibility for the safety and well-being of the community, especially vulnerable members such as children. We encourage children to walk to school for good environmental and health reasons but should not put them at risk. The lack of a patrol may result in parents going back to taking children to school in their cars with a resultant increase in  traffic congestion and pollution.

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