Jesmond school crossing campaign becomes politicised

Originally published in JesmondLocal – November 24, 2016

Crossings header

The Save Our Crossings campaign is petitioning the council to reverse their decision to remove Newcastle’s school crossing patrols.

In early October, Newcastle City Council announced plans to cut city-wide funding to school crossing patrols in an effort to reduce spending.

All but two crossings, one on the Great North Road and the other in North Heaton, were deemed unnecessary, with a total of 55 facing the axe, including all crossings in Jesmond.

Despite pressure from community groups, the council are pressing ahead with their plans. The cuts to frontline services such as school crossings have been contrasted with salary increases for some council employees.

Duncan Crute of the Save Our Crossings campaign told JesmondLocal that five council executives would be receiving a combined £100,000 pay rise on top of their current salaries.

He described the decision as “grotesque” and “an abuse of power”, understanding the need to make cuts but believing that de-funding the school crossings is not the answer.

Crute said “when times are hard – cut salaries first”. By not increasing salaries, 33 crossings could be saved rather than the current two, he claims. Alternatively, Crute argued that the number of councillors could be reduced by a third and save the same amount of money.

Enhanced road safety is the message the campaign hopes will encourage people to support them, with Crute saying crossings are “statistically proven to reduce accidents”.

Despite growing support, Crute said that the campaign have “heard nothing from the council”. Keen to reiterate the “abuse of power” on display, he stressed the disparity between the expected bonus for some council executives and the average wage in the North East of £24,000.

Crute revealed that he was particularly worried about certain “blackspots” which included the crossing outside of West Jesmond Primary School.

Despite being the Conservative deputy area candidate, and although the campaign was launched by the Newcastle Conservatives, Crute explained that it is a cross-party and cross-affiliation issue as child safety should be important to everyone.

Liberal Democrat councillor Greg Stone disputes this claim and told JesmondLocal that the Save Our Crossings campaign “is just trying to take on a common issue for political capital.”

Stone said “there are community campaigns which are different from the Conservative one and we regard them as being more authentic.”

He claimed the campaign was “a bit rich” as the crossings defunding has “largely been brought about by Conservative cuts to local government”. Stone did, however, agree that the crossings were the wrong thing to pull funding from. “We are similarly supporting calls for a review of the [council’s] policy. We would like to see the policy rethought.”

Stone also agreed that the executive pay rise was wrong, referring to the decision as “completely bizarre”.

Save Our Crossings responded to Stone’s comments, saying “we [Newcastle Conservatives] are focusing our efforts on issues of concern to the people of Jesmond as well as communities across Newcastle, this includes the demise of school crossing patrols at the hands of Labour.

Save Our Crossings’ campaign petition can be signed here:

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