Forty per cent of school crossing patrol points in Northumberland are unmanned, it has emerged.
Labour-run Northumberland County Council has admitted that supervision is only in place at 44 of 71 points across its towns and villages.
The figures are an alarming fall from 2007, when only eight sites in the county were unsupervised.
The revelation has sparked calls for immediate action before a child is killed.
Yet council bosses have insisted they are actively recruiting for people to fill the roles.
In 2007, The Journal reported how the county council was looking to save £25,000 by not filling vacant posts at locations where it was proving difficult to attract lollipop men and women.
At the time, authority bosses said there were eight vacant posts at 80 locations across the county.
In the last year, The Journal has reported on schools at Darras Hall and Morpeth where school crossing patrol officers have left their posts due to the county council’s decision not to pay travel expenses. At both sites, replacements were not found, leaving children having to cross unsupervised.
Now, it has emerged that only 44 of the current 71 crossing points are manned.
The current vacancies are not the result of any cuts, with the council having 27 unfilled posts and the money to pay workers.
The figures were given to Conservative county councillor for Cramlington North Wayne Daley by officers at a meeting of the authority’s communities and place overview and scrutiny committee.
The committee had been discussing the Northumberland Road Safety Strategy, as part of which, the council has a duty to ensure they and other partners have plans to ensure roads are as safe as they can be in the county.
Coun Daley has called for and succeeded in having school crossing patrols added to the road safety strategy action plan and also asked that an urgent report be written for the committee which will look at the recruitment and retention of crossing patrols and what is being done to address the issue.
He said: “The county council has a duty of care to all residents, but especially children.
“To have over 40% of the school crossing points without any supervision is a serious safety concern and the council must take immediate action to ensure these sites are safe. There is clearly a crisis in recruitment of school crossing patrols.
“The council has the money to pay people but whatever is being done to attract people isn’t working.
“We need a radical rethink of how we get people to do this essential service.
“It is not acceptable to have money to pay for crossing patrols and then fail to get it spent.”
Coun Peter Jackson, leader of the Tory opposition group on the council, added: “This is a serious issue which should concern every parent in Northumberland.
“For many years we have been calling for a review of the way school crossing patrols are being managed and especially the shocking gaps in safety for such a vital service.
“This is now affecting every part of the county and we want action before there is a fatality outside one of our schools.
“I will be calling on the Labour/Independent administration to take this matter seriously and end the crisis in recruitment.
“We have a moral duty to keep our children safe.”
A council spokeswoman last night said: “We are actively recruiting for school crossing patrol officers across Northumberland through advertising and with the support of schools.
“Anyone who would be interested in undertaking such a valuable and rewarding role can apply via the county council jobs site.”
Cuts cost Les a job
We reported last year how council cuts led to long-serving lollipop man Les Rogers being axed.
Les, 69, was told he had to leave his crossing at Darras Hall First School, Ponteland, to save on car mileage allowance.
He drove 290 miles a week from his home in Stakeford, near Bedlington, for his twice-a-day stint outside Darras Hall First School where he had worked for seven years.
Parents launched a Save Our Lollipop Man campaign but to no avail.
At the time in May, a spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said the council was trying to recruit a new school crossing patrol officer.
She said: “The council does not have a statutory responsibility to provide school crossing patrol officers. However, until a replacement can be found, it is ultimately a parent’s responsibility to ensure their child gets to school safely.”