THE mum of a young boy who drowned after Hartlepool’s lifeguards were withdrawn says she is “gobsmacked” at council proposals to axe the service again due to budget cuts.
June Hall, whose eight-year-old son Jordan Moon drowned eleven years ago last Saturday, blasted the idea, which Hartlepool Borough Council is considering to save £100,000 a year.
The lifeguards service, which runs from May to the end of September, and school crossing patrol services are among a series of potential budget cuts being considered by the council.
Jordan Moon drowned off Seaton Carew beach in August 2003 after the council previously withdrew lifeguards, also because of budget pressures.
His tragic death prompted the Mail’s Lifesavers campaign demanding their return and they were later reinstated.
Mrs Hall, 59, of Clavering, Hartlepool, today said of the new proposals: “I’m shocked the council is even thinking about it after what happened with Jordan.
“Last time Stuart Drummond assured me they would never be taken off again.
“I’m gobsmacked. It is an accident waiting to happen if they are not there.
“The currents at Seaton Carew are really dangerous and the lifeguards are needed.
“If they had been there when Jordan was swept out there would have been help there sooner.
“I prepare myself every year when the budget comes round but had resigned myself to thinking they would not be taken off.”
The lifeguards’ potential withdrawal is one of a series of possible £2.4m savings from the council’s Regeneration and Neighbourhoods Department budget for 2015-16.
Lollipop men and women could also disappear from the town’s streets to save £120,000 a year.
Council officers are also looking at phasing out school crossing patrols based on risk.
Denise Ogden, the council’s director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said in a report both services are “highly emotive” and are popular with the public and councillors.
But she added the council now had to consider its support for services it is not legally obliged to provide due to the financial pressure the council is facing.
The authority needs to identify around £14m budget savings over the next two financial years due to reduced Government funding.
Finance chiefs need to bridge a funding deficit of £5.626m in 2015-16 and £8.663m in 2016-17.
But councillors on the Neighbourhood Services Committee yesterday said the lifeguards and school crossing patrols should be protected.
They want to see money not spent from the neighbourhood service’s budget in the first quarter of this financial year to go towards funding them.
Councillor Peter Jackson, chairman of the neighbourhood services committee, said: “We don’t agree with the proposals and think the favourable financial outcome should be used towards school crossing patrols and lifeguards.
“The committee was united that we felt we shouldn’t be put in a position where we are considering things like school crossing patrols as savings.
“It is the cuts that this Government is making that is forcing us to consider such things.”
Council papers added the school patrols could be ‘bought back’ and run by schools or other groups.
The Mail previously ran a Stop for the Pop campaign to help protect youngsters and lollipop people from rogue drivers who ignored them.
The proposed neighbourhood cuts, including to the lifeguards and school crossing patrols, will go before the council’s finance and policy committee in October.
It’s recommendations will then go to the full council next February for a final decision to be made.