THE FUTURE of Accrington's popular community safety wardens is in jeopardy - according to the worried boss of the security firm which employs them.

Mr Shaun Raywood, the managing director of Guardhall Security based on Cannon Street, says time is running out for the highly successful pilot scheme, which has proved a hit with shoppers and the police alike.

The guardian angels help to keep crime off the town centre streets. Despite having the full backing of the police and Hyndburn Council, the future of Accrington's pioneering wardens is uncertain after their funding runs out in a few months.

Mr Raywood said: "We don't know where the money will come from to pay for them. We are hoping the local authority see sense about this and keep up the funding, or we will lose the only scheme of its kind in the country."

The wardens, who recently featured on BBC's Crimebeat programme, are currently being funded by money from the Single Regeneration Budget and co-ordinated by the Lancashire Partnership Against Crime for a three-year run. The pilot scheme will end in March, and the money will be withdrawn. LPAC's Chief Inspector Frank Harding told the Citizen: "We are desperately exploring every avenue to try and finance these wardens, and keep the scheme going.

"But we may have to reduce the scheme or suspend it altogether."

Accrington's Community Safety Warden scheme was inspired by a visit to a similar scheme in Holland. Since the wardens' introduction, and CCTV cameras, vandalism in the town centre had gone down by 50 per cent. Police forces from all over the country have visited to see how it works.

Mr Raywood said: "The wardens get lots of positive feedback while on patrol. They make people feel safer.

"Our motto is 'the hearts and minds of the public, the eyes and ears of the police'.

"The wardens are an asset to the town and every effort is being made to keep them, but unless the money is found somewhere the scheme will have to shut down and the wardens be made redundant."

"If it wasn't for them chasing off vandals, I don't think we'd have ever won the Britain in Bloom Awards."

Mr David Brown, Accrington's town centre manager, said: "We are looking into every avenue to see how funding can be acquired.

"Everybody is trying to think positively about this but we need guaranteed funding, this is the livelihood of the wardens we are talking about. It's a question of where or who we can get the money from to make up the shortfall by March."

Options currently being explored include sponsorship, reducing the number of wardens, and even introducing car parking charges in the town to pay for them, but a final decision is not likely to be reached for several months.

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