HEALTH and safety red tape is forcing a 156-year-old Morris dancing troupe into financial difficulty, it claims.

The Britannia Coconut Dancers, based in Bacup, claim they are being forced to send volunteers on training courses costing them more than £600 — to learn how to operate a road sign.

The group, which donates all of its proceeds to charity, also has to pay £1,000 road closure fees for the first time after police said they would no longer man rolling roadblocks.

The Nutters’ boundary-to-boundary dance traditionally takes place on Easter Saturday over a 12 hour period, taking in various pubs and locations in the town.

Instead of stewards using hand signals to control traffic, the Nutters have been asked by Lancashire County Council to send at least three members on a health and safety course to learn how to use manually-operated stop and go signs Secretary Joe Healey said: “We have sought legal advice and consulted with (national organisers) The Morris Ring and we believe our procession is exempt from the legislation. It’s not really fair. Time is running short now and all of our volunteers, the caretakers of our tradition, don’t know if it’s going to ahead.”

Daniel Herbert, head of local network management at Lancashire County Council, said: “Until last year, the police provided support for stewarding the event. However, as the police are no longer able to do this, the Britannia Coconutters will have to apply for the road to be closed and to provide appropriately trained stewards.

“Officers from the county council, Rossendale Council and the police met with the dancers last August and explained what they would need to do for the event to go ahead.

“The road closure is being funded by local county councillors but have asked in return that the org-anisers provide and pay for stewards.

“Discussions are continuing.”