THE future of East Lancashire’s lollipop ladies and men is under threat because of county council cash cuts sparking fears for pupils’ safety.

Council bosses want to halve their contribution to the area’s 148 primary school crossing patrols.

This will leave headteachers having to find at least £2,000 to keep their lollipop people helping children cross the road safely from September 2015.

But they fear they will not have the cash to pay for the service.

Worried head teachers, governors and lollipop men and women said they feared children could be injured or even killed as a result of the cutback.

Rafique Malik, who is chairman of governors at Burnley’s Stoneyholme Primary said the plan was a poor idea.

He said: "I don't think anyone of any sense would approve this. It is a question of children's safety.

“I do think cuts have to be made and I sympathise for the need to make cuts. However they should choose something which does not put children's safety at risk.

“The safety and security of children should be the top priority."

Lollipop man Peter Griffiths, 75, who helps children cross the road at Worsthorne Primary School, said crossing patrol people were essential on busy roads.

He said: "I do feel the role is a very necessary one. Children have too much confidence and don't realise the dangers of the road. They need help while they are learning.

“There are cuts happening everywhere but I hope they can avoid this."

Proposals were last week rubberstamped by county councillors, as part of a three-year financial programme, to trim the school crossing patrol budget from £1.5million to £1million next year.

Each of Lancashire’s 485 primary schools will be offered a £2,000 annual grant towards the total annual cost of between £4,000 and £4,500 a year providing their own patrol.

Heads would then have to find between £2,000 and £2,500 a year for each patrol out of their own budget, which also pays for teachers, classroom assistants, books and equipment.

Currently there are 357 established patrols, though only 341 are active, due to vacancies or the fact they do not meet current criteria.

They include 30 in Burnley, 22 in Pendle, 28 in Rossendale, 17 in Hyndburn, 16 in Ribble Valley and 35 in Chorley.

Last year Blackburn with Darwen ditched similar proposals to cut their school crossing patrol service, to save around £50,000 per year, after a public outcry.

County council highways boss John Fillis said: "The council is faced with an unprecedented financial challenge.

"We have to look at everything we do and think creatively about how we can make the best use of the resources we have available.

"In the past more schools asked us for crossing patrol than we were able to provide. By sharing the cost of providing them with the school, the proposal offers the opportunity of increasing the number of crossing patrols across the county and means that schools that did not previously meet the criteria can benefit from having their own crossing patrol.

"We would never have chosen to be in this financial situation but by being creative we can save £500,000 a year while offering a service to more schools."

Lisa Ticthiner, head of Sabden Primary School, said: “We have been trying to get a school crossing patrol for some time.

“If they offered us a patrol, we would struggle to find £2,000 to pay for one.”

Janet Malone, headteacher of St Mary’s Primary School in Langho said: “It would be just another burden on an already stretched budget.

“School crossing patrols are vital to our pupils safety. I just hope that the county council thinks again and reconsiders this decision.”

Burnley-born county Tory leader Geoff Driver said: “Going ahead with this would put children’s safety at risk.

“School budgets are already very stretched.

“It is not appropriate to give headteachers the choice between their school crossing patrol of a classroom assistant.

“I hope that the Labour group will reconsider this decision. We will certainly oppose it going ahead.”