BARNET Council will face a costly court battle over on-site warden cuts after permission was granted for a judicial review.

It is the first authority in the country to be forced to argue its case to a judge for the controversial slash in services.

The High Court granted permission for a hearing on the grounds the cuts may have breached the residents' contractual rights.

It also accepted solicitor Yvonne Hossack's argument that there may have been inadequate assessment of the impact the cuts would have on elderly and disabled residents.

The hearing is expected to begin in six to eight weeks.

David Young, chairman of the UK Pensioners Strategy Committee, which mounted the legal challenge, said: "This is fantastic news for pensioners across the United Kingdom.

"Yvonne Hossack warned Barnet to change their dangerous decision because it could put 1,500 of the borough's elderly at risk.

"The council ignored democracy when 86 percent of the people they consulted said they wanted to keep their wardens.

"At least now the judge will give the elderly a fair hearing and true justice."

Barnet bosses elected on June 8 to replace on-site wardens with roaming carers who respond to residents when they are in need, via a telephone alarm.

The changes will be implemented in April 2010 and are set to save the council £400,000, helping it to keep council tax low.

The controversial service cuts were greeted with angry protests across the borough, and a petition signed by 2,631 objectors was submitted to the council in June.

The council claims the new service will allow it to better serve the needs of the whole elderly community in Barnet, rather than just the two per cent residing in sheltered accommodation.

Mrs Hossack, who has been vilified by the establishment for her fight against care cuts across the country, is leading the charge against Barnet - the first of 50 councils and housing associations she hopes to take to court.

The 53-year-old has saved around 80 care homes from closure by forcing councils to consider the potentially fatal effects on those being moved elsewhere when a home is closed.

She could not discuss her personal reaction to the case for legal reasons, but voiced delight on behalf of the pensioners.

She said: "Obviously my clients are very glad that the last hurdle has been passed and are very hopeful that what they perceive as justice will be done."

Barnet councillor Richard Cornelius, cabinet member for community services, said: “As I have said before, our priority has to be making sure our services are fit for the challenges we face.

"As well as the financial challenges that the whole public sector is facing, our services for older people are dealing with rising demand and ever more complex needs.

"We need to make sure that our services are prioritised around needs of older people across the borough, whatever type of accommodation they live in.”