FOR the past six years he has greeted parents and children with a friendly smile and helped them safely cross the road to school.
But from June 1, John Rankin Junior School’s popular lollipop man Rodney Bracey is to be made redundant owing to West Berkshire Council’s public service cuts.
The district council is cutting its funding to eight school crossing patrols as part of its plan to save £17.5m next year and, with no alternative funding currently in place, the 70-year-old could lose his job in less than six weeks.
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Bracey said: “I’m really disappointed and will be sad if I have to go. I’ll miss all the children saying: ‘Hello Rodney’, it’s the highlight of my day.”
Mr Bracey, who lives in Crookham Common, previously worked as a head groundsman at a number of West Berkshire schools, but was forced into early retirement after suffering a serious motorcycle crash after which he had to learn how to walk again.
He added: “After the motorbike accident, I spent two years out of work and needed something to get out of bed for again. This job was it. It’s so rewarding and I love it.
“I’m actually worse off financially coming to work, but I don’t do it for the money. I like to get people to school safely.”
Since learning of Rodney’s impending redundancy, parent Yvonne Soulby, whose two children, Jess and Aiden, attend the school, has been spearheading a campaign, which has the backing of both the school and the board of governors, to save him.
Ms Soulby said: “Rodney is invaluable. A true gentleman and a vital part of this community.”
Parent Anne-Marie O’Keefe said: “He has become part of our mornings over the past six years and he’s always got a smile on his face. He loves the kids and it would be a real shame if he has to go.”
Another parent, Emily O’Brien, added: “It would be really sad – all the children recognise him and love him. There is also the safety side of things. This is a really busy and dangerous road.”
A statement from West Berkshire Council said: “This is not a statutory service, and parents are responsible, by law, to get their children to school safely, regardless of whether there is a crossing patroller in place.
“Many other local authorities have removed their crossing patrol services completely.
“However, we recognise how much communities value this service, and we have developed a scheme to work with partners to deliver school-crossing patrols.
“This means that staffing, management and funding of the patrol is operated by someone else, under a formal contractual agreement.
“We provide training, an initial supply of uniform, a lollipop and audit safeguarding checks.”
Mr Bracey has now been advised that the best way forward is to set himself up as a sole trader and ask businesses to sponsor him.
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