School crossing patrols in Blaenau Gwent saved after outcry

School crossing patrol protest at the Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale Image copyright LDRS
Image caption Lollipop men and ladies welcomed a change of heart over their future

Plans to scrap school crossing patrols and turn off street lights have been abandoned after an outcry by parents and other campaigners.

Blaenau Gwent leader Nigel Daniels said the independent-run council had listened to public opinion while setting its 2019-20 budget.

Extra funding will be found to keep main road street lights on until midnight and restore lighting to industrial estates amid fears of crime.

Council tax will go up by 4.9%.

Mr Daniels told Friday's full council meeting in Ebbw Vale the extra cash would protect as many services as possible, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Savings of more than £3m to balance the books will include the loss of 24 jobs, although compulsory redundancies would be a "very last resort", he added.

'Out in all weathers'

Gareth Morgans, regional organiser for the GMB union, welcomed the U-turn over school crossing patrols.

"The council has seen sense in putting children's safety first and recognised the value of staff they've got," he said.

"These people are out in all weathers protecting children."

A proposal to introduce charges for school breakfast clubs was scrapped, while a 1.5% increase in funding for schools was agreed.

Sports clubs will have to undertake community asset transfers by 1 April, when financial support will be withdrawn.

But Mr Daniels said preparations had been ongoing since August 2017, and that all but one club had nearly completed the transfers.

Money will also be used to increase council reserves after the authority was criticised by the Wales Audit Office for its low levels.

The move to increase reserves was opposed by the Labour group, which called for a smaller council tax increase of 3.98%.

Group leader Steve Thomas claimed the people of Blaenau Gwent had "already suffered enough", but his proposal was rejected.

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