A GROUP that has been helping keep people safe on nights out in Bolton for the past decade is to close.

Bolton Street Angels was one of the first groups of its kind to be set up in the country — but the volunteers’ last patrol will be on Friday, December 15.

They have been helping people in need since 2008 but a lack of volunteers means the group is being forced to make the ‘difficult decision’ to disband.

At its peak, the group had a pool of 30 volunteers willing to go out on Friday and Saturday nights but this is now down to just 11.

Over the past nine years, they have helped look after people who have had too much to drink, been separated from their friends or were in distress for various reasons.

Organisers say there is also a lack of team leaders and the group can no longer sustain a presence in the town every week.

Treasurer Suzanne McKinley said: “Over the past one or two years, our number of active volunteers has fallen.

“We came to a point where we weren’t able to carry on. It was a difficult decision to make.”

The group was originally based in Bradshawgate but had to move to Churchgate and then Bank Street Chapel in 2014.

They say the issue of their base no longer being as central to the town’s bars and clubs means it has less of a presence, leading to fewer people offering to volunteer.

The Bolton News:

Adrienne Tonge, one of the co-founders of Bolton Street Angels and a former chairman, said: “If you are not there every weekend and people can’t rely on you, it is almost worse than not being there at all.

“People have always, generally speaking, been appreciative of what we are doing and what we have been doing.

“A lot of them have been helped themselves or they have had friends that have been helped.”

It is estimated volunteers removed about 15,000 bottles and glasses from the street to prevent injuries, helped 1,500 people who were vulnerable in some way, gave out 800 bottles of water and 700 pairs of flip flops.

At its peak, four or five people were regularly going out with a team leader to patrol Bolton and keep partygoers safe but now this is down to just two on most weekends including a team leader.

There are more than 100 local groups, similar to Bolton Street Angels, around the UK.

The last patrol in Bolton will be on Mad Friday — the name given to one of the busiest party nights out of the year before Christmas.

Steve Hoyle, chairman of Bolton Pubwatch, said: “It’s terrible. It’s a lack of team leaders and volunteers, so unfortunately they have made this decision.

“I think it will have a massive impact, they do some great stuff. I don’t know what you can do to help them.

“They lack the team leaders, they can’t continue. Without a doubt it will be detrimental to the town centre.

“We need everything we can get for the vulnerable. It will be a sad loss to Bolton town centre, it really will.”

It is believed more than 100 people have volunteered with Bolton Street Angels over the years and the organisers have thanked them for their support.

Ms Tonge said: “The door staff over the years have been amazingly supportive. They have always been helpful to us.

“There are still people working really hard to make sure people in the town centre are safe.

“We have reduced the number of ambulances required and taken the pressure off door staff. We can help people get home safely and reduce the number of police needed to help deal with people who have had too much to drink.”

She added that the Best Bar None scheme has also been a welcome addition to the town, ensuring bars know best practice to keep people safe.

Any money the group has left over and its equipment will be donated to local good causes to allow them to carry on their work.

A farewell meal will be held for volunteers past and present next year to say goodbye to Bolton Street Angels.

The organisers wanted to thank Bank Street Chapel, Christians Together in Bolton, Pubwatch, Town Centre Chaplaincy, Bolton Methodist Mission, Rotary Club, Soroptimists, Christian Night Time Initiatives, Greater Manchester Police and the Salvation Army for their support.