TAXI ranks in the region are to be monitored by security guards to tackle violence among late-night revellers from next weekend.

Two marshals will be at the rank opposite the Louisa Centre, in Stanley, on Fridays, and the rank in Trafalgar Street, Consett, on Saturdays.

They will be on patrol between midnight and 3.30am to prevent problems developing as people spill out of pubs and clubs.

It is being piloted for four consecutive weekends after Derwentside District Council secured £1,200 in funding.

Council licensing policy and development officer Sandra Wood is heading the initiative.

She said: "It is about keeping order when people are sick of waiting around after a night out. When people have had their takeway and are full of alcohol, they just want to go home. But they get disgruntled because of the queues and problems can occur.

"People lose their patience and push in and violence breaks out.

"It is up to us as the licensing authority to create initiatives to tackle problems to do with violence that are alcohol-related."

At about 2.30am, there can be as many as 60 people waiting for a cab.

The marshals will wear highly visible, fluorescent tops so that people can identify them easily.

They are not there to break up fights, but to alert the police of potential problems before they arise.

Marshals will be employed by Newcastle-based Phoenix security and approved by the Security Industry Authority with training in first aid, conflict management, human rights and race relations.

If the pilot is successful, Miss Wood said she will apply for more funding and make taxi rank marshalling a regular feature in Derwentside's late-night economy.

The move has been welcomed by Durham Constabulary.

Sergeant Tim Robson, of the force's licensing unit, said: "They will be there to assist people to get home in an orderly manner.

"They are an extra eye and ear on the ground and if they spot problems they can let the police and CCTV operators know.

"Police will also be on patrol in the area and if someone has to be arrested, then we will come and do it."