HIGH noon talks have begun to save Hyndburn's team of pioneering neighbourhood wardens from the chop.
Fifty per cent of the wardens will lose their jobs next March with the remainder following a year later if money is not found to save the scheme.
The 12 wardens, who do vital work in the borough's most rundown areas, are paid for by Government cash which is set to run out.
Hyndburn Council has launched a desperate, last-minute bid to secure the futures of the wardens, whose work has been widely praised.
As the Observer went to press leaders of the council, Lancashire County Council, police and fire authorities were negotiating their contributions to a possible rescue package.
Last week council leader Peter Britcliffe, who called the D-Day meeting, pledged to provide money from Hyndburn's coffers to save the scheme - but only if partner agencies would pay their share.
He said: "The rounded view, from talking to many people, is the wardens have done a great job and people are anxious to see the scheme continue. The Community Safety Partnership was responsible for running the scheme.
"I said from the beginning it should be looking into how to continue funding. I am very disappointed that it seems to be saying it can't continue the service but is taking an alternative forward with the police."
Davina Helm, manager at the Community Safety Partnership, said she preferred not to comment.
Hyndburn MP Greg Pope has thrown his weight behind the bid to save the wardens, who took to the streets in March 2002 in a blaze of publicity.
He said: "I have written to the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council, the Chief Const-able of Lancashire and the Chief Fire Officer for Lancashire to ask for their help.
"The wardens are doing a fantastic job and are very popular. Only £300,000 is needed to save them, and between the organisations that is not an enormous amount.
"It isn't the time to criticise the council or for scoring political points but jobs and a public service are at risk. It was crystal clear when the orginal funding was given that alternative funding must be sought."