Islington’s lollipop ladies are saved - but Christmas lights will still go

LOLLIPOP ladies have been saved from the axe that is falling on services across Islington – but Christmas lights are still being chopped.

Islington Council has finally been told the amount of money it is losing from central Government – and it amounts to �40million in 2011-12, plus a further �14million in 2012-13.

Council bosses have now finalised the hit-list of what will go and it includes getting rid of Christmas lights to save �45,000 a year, axing hanging baskets to save �140,000 a year, ditching staffed adventure playgrounds to save �63,000 a year, and making 281 redundancies.

But a number of other cuts that would have hit the most vulnerable have been dropped after they were exposed by the Gazette. The council has decided that it will now safeguard lollipop ladies, the school uniform grant for poor families, and the Council Tax rebate for over-65s.

The price of Meals on Wheels will also be frozen, instead of initial plans to put it up to �3.50, and the public toilets in Chapel Market and Old Street will be kept – although they will become unmanned coin-operated facilities.

Councillor Catherine West, leader of the Labour-run council, said: “Our Labour group said no to cutting school crossing patrols. But we are going to hold our nerve on Christmas lights and hanging baskets because they are something we are hoping the ‘big society’ will step up to. We are hoping that businesses and artists will help fill the gap. We want to protect children’s services, social workers and other core services.”

The news has been greeted with relief. Lollipop lady Janet Wooden, 56, who patrols outside St John’s Highbury Vale Primary School off Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, said: “Lollipop men and women are very important to the children. They really cut the accident rate. They are an essential service.”

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In total, the council will make �29.6million worth of cuts to services next financial year as well as �20million worth of cuts to the grants it gives out. This will cover the �40million worth of Government cuts, plus an extra �10million that needs to be found because of inflated costs.

Councillor West added: “This is an attack on low income people. Everybody has this cappuccino image of Islington but we live in poverty. That’s the message we need to get across to the Government. This is the worst settlement for councils since 1945 and we are the worst affected of any council in London.”

The Government is expected to make further reductions and the council is preparing to make a total of �100million in cuts in the four years from 2011 to 2015.