WORRIED parents in Helensburgh have challenged council chiefs to show their commitment to children’s safety by taking school crossing patrols off the table as a savings option – now and in the future.

The proposed scrapping of the service, and the potential removal of pupil support assistant hours, are the subject of a letter to Argyll and Bute councillors from Hermitage Primary School’s parent council.

And a councillor who works as a teacher has also expressed concerns at the possible savings, which are two of a number of options put forward by the council.

A survey conducted by the parent council revealed that nearly nine out of ten responding parents felt that their kids would be at an unacceptable level of risk if crossing patrols were scrapped.

READ MORE: Scrap Gaelic signs to save council cash, says public in budget survey

Six out of ten who responded also said that the retention of pupil support assistants should be viewed as a priority.

The proposed savings options will be scrutinised by members of the council’s policy and resources committee at its meeting on Thursday.

The budget will be finalised by the full council next Thursday, February 27, when council tax rates will also be set.

Claire Walker, chair of the Hermitage Parent Council, said: “It is very disappointing that once again the safety and welfare of our children is being put at risk by these cuts.

“What parents are requesting is very simple. They want to ensure their children have the best possible chance of a good education and support throughout their school journey whilst being kept safe on all aspects of that journey.

“Over 83 per cent of respondents to the survey said that they or their children use the crossing patrols that serve our school every day.

“If this service were to be withdrawn, 89 per cent feel the level of risk increases to an unacceptable level, with the potential risk of significant harm to our children.

“To add to the already congested area, 38 per cent said they would have to change their mode of transport to school by then using the car.

READ MORE: Council services 'under threat' as government announces Argyll and Bute funding for 2020-21

“We see it reasonable to conclude, that it is highly likely that there would be a significant increase in traffic and pollution around Hermitage Primary School posing a potential risk to our children if the service were to be withdrawn.

“There is overwhelming support for the crossing patrol service.

“This is highlighted by the majority of parents feeling protecting the service should be seen as a priority by the council.

“The monetary value that would be gained by withdrawing this service is a long way off the value of the life of a child.”

Switching attention to the potential removal of pupil support assistants, Ms Walker continued: “This is a role that is vital in supporting all the children that pass through Hermitage Primary School including those with additional support needs.

“They contribute to the assessment of pupil achievement and attainment using the skills they have gained through their professional qualifications.

“If the funding for this post is withdrawn, a large number of children would be deprived of the help, care and support they need in their early years development, resulting in a negative impact on their future.

“When parents completed the survey, 60 per cent of parents felt protecting this post should be seen as a priority in the forthcoming cuts.”

READ MORE: School support staff and crossing patrols under threat in Argyll and Bute Council savings plans

Ms Walker then added: “Whilst we are sympathetic to the restrictions on the council’s budget and appreciate that there will be many competing priorities, the Hermitage Primary Parent Council considers that the views of such a significant component of the community in Helensburgh – the largest primary school in Argyll and Bute – should be taken into account.

“Furthermore, we would encourage Argyll and Bute Council to show their commitment to the welfare and safety of our children, and your future, by taking the crossing patrol as a means of budget cuts ‘off the table’ in future years to come.”

Helensburgh Central councillor Lorna Douglas (SNP), who is a member of the policy and resources committee, and who also works as a teacher outwith her council duties, told the Advertiser she shared the parents’ concerns.

She said: “As a teacher I am well aware of the negative impacts that cuts to education can bring.

“The cuts to pupil support assistants will have a hugely detrimental effect on the learning and teaching within classrooms.

“They are invaluable to teachers and pupils in contributing to an inclusive learning environment and raising the attainment gap.

“It’s disappointing to see that school crossing patrollers are back on the budget savings list again this year.

“They not only provide road safety, but form part of that wider school community that is so invaluable to pupils.”

READ MORE: Argyll and Bute 'still needs more cash', council's leader warns

Councillor Douglas added: “The SNP group are mindful of the budget implications with their respective council and community impacts and will carefully deliberate the proposed savings before us.”

Liberal Democrat council leader Aileen Morton said: “We would love to be able to do everything our communities want us to do, and to have everyone satisfied with the decisions the council makes about its budget.

“The harsh reality is that that’s just not possible. In fact COSLA (the Convention for Scottish Local Authorities) has highlighted councils’ budget position as a crisis that is reducing councils’ ability to act on local priorities.

The views local people give to our budget consultation help a great deal in reaching the responsible budget decisions for Argyll and Bute. Thanks very much to everyone who took time to respond.

“We’ve already removed £50million from our budget in recent years and we will need to find savings in excess of £20million in the coming years.

“So the decisions that we face next week aren’t taken in isolation and we need to consider our overall financial fragility at the same time as setting a balanced budget for this year.

“We will listen to what people have told us, and as far as budget restrictions allow, will make decisions that match their priorities.

“Thank you again to everyone who has put forward their views.”

READ MORE: Click here to catch up on all the latest news headlines from across Helensburgh and Lomond