IT'S Christmas dinner... paid for by convicted criminals.

The Westhoughton Age Support Project (WASP) came out on top in a Dragons' Den-style pitch for a slice of a £15,000 police budget offered up to the town last month.

Hundreds of people flocked to the special presentation at Westhoughton High School to see who would benefit from the police funding pot.

The cash, recovered from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act, will pay for WASP's Christmas party for their members this year.

They were afforded £1,500 of the police funds, a healthy chunk of the £2,000 they had requested in their application.

Their bid had been compiled by treasurer Wilf Dillon.

WASP was among 12 community groups to win funding after 23 groups had spoken for three minutes in a Dragon's Den style pitch.

The 225-strong audience then voted for their top favourites, and the top dozen groups in terms of votes won the money.

Leonard Maycroft, secretary of Westhoughton Age Support Project, said: "We were over the moon to get the money.

"It was quite formal really and we outlined in a presentation why we should be given a grant, specifically for the Christmas party.

"Then the public voted and we came out with the most votes, which was absolutely fantastic."

In addition, WASP also organises trips away for members, with ones to Southport, Llandudno, Blackpool, Lytham St Annes and Morecambe last year.

The Christmas party covers lunch, a mince pie, raffle, a visit from Santa Claus, a children's choir performance, and entertainment.

Its aim is to provide lonely elderly people company and somewhere to go on Christmas Day.

WASP started in 1982 and meets twice a week at Winifred Kettle House on ? and the John Holt Centre on M

The charity aims to "promote the welfare of the elderly in Westhoughton and surrounding areas by providing opportunities to improve the quality of life and thereby enable people living alone to have regular social interaction."

PCSO Mark Flannery said: "The event was a huge success. The ages of those pitching their projects ranged from three to 92 and covered a multitude of activities designed at making communities stronger.

"The police were also able to raise the awareness of organised crime gangs and how strong community links can tackle the problems they pose.

"225 residents attended on the day and all wish for a repeat of the event as it allowed them to interact not only with the police in a different way but also to understand the strengths and skills that lie within their own community.

"No one went away disappointed as by showcasing their groups they developed new links within the community which benefited them as much as a cash prize."

Other beneficiaries from the event were Tots and Toddlers, Washacre FM, Washacre Primary School, Westhoughton Rotary Club, Friday Night Fever Youth Club, Friends of Eatock Lodge and St Bartholomew's School, who all also received £1,500.