NEIGHBOURHOOD wardens patrolling Hyndburn's streets look set to be axed by 2006.

The borough has 12 wardens who work in the four most deprived wards - Woodnook, Barnfield, Central and Springhill.

Next year their number will be halved, and the following year will disappear altogether as Government funds have dried up.

The wardens - who support the police and monitor issues including litter - were put in place using grants running until 1998, forcing the council to re-apply.

Prime Minister Tony Blair even promised to look into the situation earlier this year. But now the second round of funding is set to stop.

Coun Peter Britcliffe, leader of the council, said: "I think it's absolutely despicable and disgraceful that the Government should be cutting funding for the project."

Neighbourhood Wardens do not have police powers but instead act as a community's 'eyes and ears'.

They can issue on-the-spot fines for littering and dog fouling, and often take part in clean-ups, joining councillors and the public to clear dirty alleys or grot spots.

The wardens also carry out street patrols from lunchtime to late evening, reporting on problem areas, dirty back yards, fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles and cars with no tax disc.

The wardens cost £320,000 a year, which the council admit they cannot afford to pay without increasing council taxes. From April 1, 2005, the funding will be cut by 50 per cent, and from April 1 2006 the funds will be cut completely.

Tom Parsons, the chairman of the warden advisory committee, said: "They have done a valuable job and it should be extended not removed. They are the link between us and the bobbies."

Now the council's regeneration boss has been instructed to press for more funds and look for other sources, and the council's cabinet have agreed to fund a share of the necessary cash if other bodies, such as the Primary Care Trust or the police, agree to help.