ANGRY protesters brought traffic in Finchley to a standstill on Saturday as they campaigned to keep what they say is a vital service for vulnerable residents.

More than 150 pensioners, disabled residents and concerned family members marched from Finchley Central Tube station to Victoria Park, calling on Barnet Council bosses to rethink plans to scrap on-site wardens in sheltered housing.

Around 1,200 people have also signed a petition opposing the proposals, which will be sent to the council next week.

Under the plans, residents in Barnet’s 52 sheltered housing schemes would lose the people who help them with day-to-day activities and raise the alarm during an emergency.

The service would be replaced with “floating” wardens who make daily visits to residents with specific needs.

The council hopes to save £950,000 from the cuts, which it has vowed to put towards services for elderly and vulnerable people who do not live in sheltered housing.

But critics argue the move will endanger those who rely on the service.

Amanda Freeman, 38, of Holden Road, joined the march on behalf of her grandmother.

"The wardens are like gold dust,” she said. “The service they provide allows the elderly to live their lives independently and with dignity.

"Barnet Council has lost a lot of money in Icelandic investments and it seems they want to make up the shortfall by targeting those least able to defend themselves.”

Larry Hemington, 66, of Wimbush House, in Westbury Road, said: "Health and safety is the main concern.

"The wardens are a constant presence 24 hours a day and if anyone has concerns they can find someone almost instantly to help them. It is reassuring and makes the most vulnerable residents feel safe.

"If the wardens are cut, many residents are going to have to move into homes and that will only end up costing the council more."

Lynne Hillan, cabinet member for community services, said the cut was designed to make the system fairer by distributing council funds among all elderly and vulnerable people, not just those in sheltered accommodation.

Currently, two in every 100 people over the age of 60, or 1,500 households, live in community sheltered housing in the borough.

Ms Hillan said: “What we are doing is looking at our services for people in need and asking whether it is the best use of our money.

“In our last Government inspection, we were challenged on the fact that we were spending a lot of money on a small number of contracts, which was not providing best value across the board.

“We have to think of everyone. Obviously people in sheltered housing are extremely important to us, but there are a lot of extremely important people living in the borough who we also need to provide for.”

Ms Hillan vowed that any resident who feels isolated or insecure would be visited daily by the same warden under the new system.

“If someone needs or wants to see a warden every day, we would provide that service,” she said. “Residents and wardens could build up a relationship in the same way they have already.”

Labour MP for Hendon, Andrew Dismore, and Barnet Labour group leader Alison Moore also joined the march to pledge their support.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s question time last Wednesday, Mr Dismore said: "The Conservative council's plan to cut the sheltered warden service is causing considerable fear and anxiety among many edlerly and vulnerable people in my constituency who rely on the wardens not just for safety, security and reassurance, but also the small things that make life worth living."

Barnet cabinet will vote on the issue at a meeting on June 8.