PENSIONERS and their relatives have urged Oxfordshire County Council not to axe “vital” wardens from sheltered accommodation blocks – at any cost.

Earlier this month, the Oxford Mail revealed thousands of OAPs and disabled people living in sheltered accommodation across the county could lose their wardens.

The way people in sheltered accommodation are supported is being reviewed by County Hall – prompting fears that some wardens could be scrapped in a bid to save cash.

Now worried residents have circulated a petition demanding the council keeps them — at all costs.

The council declined to speculate on the future of wardens, but insisted that – despite looming major cuts in Government funding – it aimed to provide a better service to more people.

Spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “No one is proposing that all wardens will go, and the tendering process for future contracts is ongoing.”

But at Field House in West Way, Botley, scores of residents and their relatives have signed a petition urging the council to spare the axe.

The sheltered accommodation block has 60 flats and is run by housing association Sovereign Vale.

Wardens are employed by housing associations and district councils to visit residents in their homes to check on them.

The cost is picked up by the county council, which receives its money from the Government.

Marian Taylor’s 94-year-old mother has been living at Field House for three years and said the warden there was a vital bridge between her and the family.

Mrs Taylor, 55, of Cumnor Hill, said: “From the family’s point of view, he is invaluable. Having the resident warden there gives us peace of mind because he is simply there.

“He will contact us in the event of a problem and work with us to overcome it.

“When the family is away, he keeps an extra eye out and takes contact numbers just in case.”

Mrs Taylor said the warden checked on residents regularly and was a friendly face that residents knew and trusted.

She added: “Taking away the resident wardens may seem like cutting costs in the short term, but if you compare that to the cost of going into a home, it must be so much cheaper.”

Field House resident Winnie Nash, 82, said: “Take Sunday night, the lady next door died and the warden was about so he could see to it straight away.

“It’s all the little things too. It’s so handy when a light bulb goes and someone is around to help you.

“If you fall he’s there to lift you.

“We’ve got an emergency bell, but it’s not the same.”

County Hall said Government funding for supporting vulnerable people in their homes in Oxfordshire would be slashed from £20m in 2003 to £13.8m by 2013.

A spokesman said any proposed changes would be discussed with residents first.