CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to fight on after councillors voted to continue a consultation process that will decide whether to keep school crossing guards in Dorset.

They were told that that a Policy Development Panel (PDP) will be set up to investigate ways in which the county council-funded service can be saved.

Dorset County Council will continue consultations with schools and local authorities on proposals to save £200,000 a year by withdrawing the salaries of lollipop men and women.

Concerned parents and trade unionists protested on the steps of County Hall in Dorchester before the full council meeting.

Council chiefs suggest paid crossing guards could be replaced with volunteers or alternative funding could be found from the community.

Councillors at the meeting were asked to respond to a petition of 10,000 signatures against plans to cut funding for the service.

Speaking after the meeting, campaigner Helen Toft said: “I’m going to keep fighting.

“If we don’t find the volunteers then the service will go.

“I feel sorry that however many facts I put in front of the councillors they don’t seem to accept that there’s no community funding for this.

“In deprived areas of Weymouth and Portland there’s no money from the community to do this.”

Mrs Toft warned that many schools could find themselves without crossing patrols while the consultation is being carried out.

She said: “If you are a school crossing guard then you will start looking for another job right now.

“They won’t be recruiting for replacement school crossing patrols. I don’t think it’s been thought through in real practical terms.”

Council leader Angus Campbell said choosing to consult on the service was an unpleasant job.

“We have been given a job to do by the coalition government which isn’t a pleasant one.

“We need to work with local authorities and schools to help us do the things we have to do,” he said.

Peter Finney, the cabinet member for transport, said the council is not obliged to provide the service.

“I would remind members that we are facing a major financial crisis.

“The school crossing patrol service is not something that the county council has to by law provide.

“If we take volunteers on there is no difference in training for volunteers as there is for full-time employees.”

Lodmoor councillor Brian Ellis said axing the patrols would turn council policy ‘on its head’.

“Children will be taken to school in cars, which will increase traffic. We’ve had proposals to do walking buses. This turns it on its head.

“Consult if you will, but do not simply turn around and say use volunteers and say the money is coming from the school.”

Janet Dover, leader of the council’s Lib-Dem group, abstained from the consultation vote and proposed setting up the PDP for school crossing guards.

She said: “We will be doing everything we can to find alternative funding for school crossing patrols.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the campaigners who have fought for this.”