A COMMUNITY action group is reeling after the probation service pulled the plug on helpers.

For three years, teams of criminals serving community payback sentences had been sent to help out at St Paul’s graveyard in Johnson New Road, Hoddlesden, transforming it from being “overgrown and neglected”.

But now members of the church, which owns the graveyard, have been told that due to cutbacks there has been a reduction in the number of supervisors, and no-one is available to oversee the teams.

Sylvia Robinson, of St Paul’s Church, is appealing for new volunteers from within the community.

She said: “The payback teams used to come regularly and help tidy the place up.

“There were some objections to having them here at first, but they were great.

"They did a brilliant job for us. They seemed to like being out in the countryside, and they could get a sense of achievement for what they had done.

“Now I’ve had a call to say that there’s not enough people to supervise the men, and we won’t be having them again. It’s a real shame. We were very grateful to them.”

A clean-up day has been organised for this Saturday, between 9am and 3pm.

Volunteers are needed to help cut the grass, trim bushes and look after graves, several of which are war graves. Strimmers and secateurs are required.

Mrs Robinson added: “We want the graveyard to look nice before Remembrance Sunday when members of the Royal British Legion come up and put wreaths on the war graves and we put poppies on other ones.”

A Lancashire Probation Trust spokesman said: “At the moment we have a heavy demand for projects that are of benefit to the community and we are doing our best to meet these.

“It is disappointing that we are unable to work for our beneficiary at St Paul’s.”