Hertfordshire councillors consider installing extra zebra crossings due to shortage of school patrol staff

Councillors are considering how best to keep families travelling to school safe, while facing recruitment challenges
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Councillors have questioned whether there should be school crossing patrols in areas where there are already zebra crossings, during a scrutiny of budget proposals.

And with a shortage of crossing patrol guards in some areas, there were suggestions that in those areas zebra crossings could be installed instead.

Across Hertfordshire there are more than 140 school crossing patrols – designed to help 24,000 children to cross the road to school.

Councillors accept a number of school patrol postings are currently vacantCouncillors accept a number of school patrol postings are currently vacant
Councillors accept a number of school patrol postings are currently vacant

But at the budget scrutiny meeting Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul de Kort said that one in three of those posts could be vacant at any one time.

And he suggested the council needed to ‘come up with a different solution’.

He said it was ‘not appropriate’ to have school crossing guards and zebra crossings in the same location, which was ‘potentially a waste’.

And he suggested that where they were unable to recruit guards for any length of time they should look at whether there should be a zebra crossing instead.

He acknowledged the additional capital cost, but compared that to the ongoing costs of a crossing patrol.

At the meeting there were also suggestions that this would be an improvement – because the crossing would be there for other pedestrian throughout the day.

The co-existence of zebra crossings and crossing patrols was also highlighted at the meeting by Conservative Councillor Terry Hone.

“We have school crossing patrols where there are zebra crossings,” he said.

“Now of course by law you should not need a school crossing patrol assistant where you have a zebra crossing, because the vehicles should stop by law.

“In fact the Highway Code now says that – not even just a zebra crossing – if pedestrians or cyclists wish to cross over then people should stop and let them cross. ”

Pointing to an example of a crossing patrol at the same location as a zebra crossing he asked: “How do we take that into account, in terms of that cost us money- two lots of money?

“We have put a zebra crossing in – and we are paying for a school crossing patrol.”

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In response, executive member for highways and transport Councillor Phil Bibby suggested that it was ‘even worse’ when there was a controlled crossing – with crossing patrol guards pressing the button for the children.

He accepted that in recent years recruitment to school crossing patrols had been ‘challenging’ – suggesting on average 20 per cent of posts were vacant.

He stressed the steps taken to recruit local people to the roles.

And he said new measures were being drawn up that could include schools funding engineering works to support volunteer crossing patrols – if they don’t meet the minimum criteria for a funded service.

The council’s ‘delivery of an efficient and effective school crossing patrol service’ is highlighted in the council’s 24/25 budget document.

And the comments were made as councillors met to scrutinise the council’s ‘highways and transport’ budget plans.

The virtual meeting was held on Friday (26 January) as part of ongoing scrutiny of the county council’s budget proposals for 2024/25.