Revellers and cabbies may face further violence from drunken yobs if a taxi marshalling service is axed, it is feared.
The night-time scheme, established more than a decade ago to prevent disorder among queueing customers, is facing an uncertain future as part of ongoing Sunderland City Council budget cuts.
It may end as early as April if nearly £125,000 of funding is scrapped as part of the authority’s search for £74million of savings.
More details of how the council aims to reach its target are now emerging with question marks also facing the future of sports pitches, bowling greens and “key parks” across the city.
Preliminary talks are already under way with the Football Association to find a partial solution.
As far as the marshals are concerned, leading city firm Station Taxis fears their disappearance could lead to an escalation in weekend intimidation and violence.
George Daley, chairman of the firm, which has nearly 200 vehicles, said the funding cut was “understandable, but unfortunate”.
He added: “It is a valuable service and it would potentially have effects for both our staff and customers and those of other companies in the town.”
The marshals mainly work outside the Green Terrace taxi rank on Friday, Saturday and Monday evenings from 11pm-5am, and Nik Chapman, manager of the Cooper Rose, in nearby Albion Place, also fears violence could increase.
Mr Chapman, who is chairman of the Sunderland City Centre Pubwatch group, said: “It could lead to an escalation in violence at 3am when people have had too much to drink, although even just the fear could lead to more people staying away or heading off to Newcastle instead.”
Businesses across the city centre contribute to the service according to their ratable value, although financial support from Northumbria Police, which originally ran the scheme, has now ended.
Councillor Michael Mordey, cabinet member for City Services, said: “A decision was made in last year’s budget to end funding for the taxi marshal scheme.
“We are in discussions with the taxi trade, the night time economy and Northumbria Police about them contributing to the service as they all benefit from it.
“At the moment it has been left to the council tax payer to fund and we are no longer able to do so.”