HYNDBURN'S pioneering neighbourhood wardens look doomed to lose their jobs.
After weeks of negotiations to secure rescue funding for the popular wardens, discussions have broken down.
Now a war of words has erupted, with Hyndburn MP Greg Pope launching a stinging attack on Hyndburn Council for failing to save the scheme.
He alleges the authority has retreated from a commitment to obtain funding.
Speaking after a last-ditch meeting on Monday between the council, fire and police authorities - which are all served by the wardens - he said: "Hyndburn Council has no intention of finding the money. I wrote to the partner agencies to see if they could contribute but they have no cash.
"Council leader Peter Britcliffe has done a lot of wriggling and tried to put the blame on everyone else. If he apologised folk would understand but he is playing politics with people's jobs."
The wardens are paid from the Government's Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, which will be cut by half in March, meaning six job losses.
In March 2006, when the remaining Government funding runs out, the rest of the wardens will also go.
Hyndburn Council always knew it needed to arrange alternative funding in alliance with members of the fire and police authorities through the borough's Community Safety Partnership.
Councillor Britcliffe defended the council, saying: "I have never bumped into as much hypocrisy in my life. We've been searching diligently for funding and it's possible we can part-fund it, but others seem to be playing games.
"The MP and county council offered nothing. Other authorities are shedding crocodile tears but aren't prepared to put their hands in their pockets.
"The only solution would be to increase council tax across the borough by about 10 per cent, but I don't think residents would think that fair for just four wards."
Highly visible in their distinctive uniforms, the wardens have been highly praised by community groups and residents for reducing anti-social behaviour and juvenile nuisance.
Mr Pope patrolled with them last Friday night.
He said: "I was hugely impressed. I stayed for three hours until their shift ended. We patrolled in Spring Hill and moved into Accrington town centre where there was plenty going on and we were kept really busy."
Unison representative Steve Watson said this week: "As things stand, it will take a miracle to save these jobs."