A NORTH-EAST firm is fuelling the fight against crime by funding a countryside neighbourhood network for the next 12 months.

Bayford and Co will cover the operating costs of the Daleswatch scheme in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale for at least the next year, via the company's own Countryside Fund.

Daleswatch volunteers patrol designated areas, alerting each other to any suspicious activity by short-wave radio and calling in police.

Bayford's input will cover the cost of the network's base stations and the necessary insurance.

Fund co-ordinator Aisha Khan said: "We're really pleased to be able to lend our support to something as valuable as Daleswatch. From speaking to local people, it's clear how effective a deterrent like this is and we hope our backing will enable the volunteers to keep up their good work in the future.''

Bayford set up its Countryside Fund after research carried out in areas where the firm sells its heating oil highlighted problems with cash to pay for self-help schemes. There has been significant interest in grants ever since the launch in April.

"We're very happy the fund has proved so popular and we're going to be able to make a difference to local communities," added Ms Khan.