PRIVATE security guards will continue to patrol parts of the city centre after a successful trial saw a reduction in antisocial behaviour and street drinking.

Salisbury councillors agreed on Tuesday to extend the project and employ two full-time stewards at a cost of £70,000 a year.

The council said feedback from traders, residents and the police had been positive.

Council leader Matthew Dean said: "This is a very popular, well supported, important piece of activity to deal with a major problem."

But opposition members questioned the scheme's effectiveness.

Labour leader Mike Osment said the project was very expensive and taxpayers were effectively paying the police and the council for the same service.

He said: "I'm sure the police are happy. They are happy we are doing their job for them at considerable cost."

He questioned the guards' experience in dealing with people with complex issues, and said it was simply displacing the problem.

He said: "The important thing is people are paying twice and I'm concerned this will expand and the council will more and more be funding itself for what is a second rate police service."

Cllr Stephen Berry said: "This is a historic city with lots of visitors. We have got to create and environment and an ambience where people don't feel threatened."

Cllr Tom Corbin suggested the money would "much better spent" on three new PCSOs or two new police officers.

Richard Goodman, a former police sergeant who now works for Salisbury BID and manages the city's new CCTV system, said the council should ask the chief constable to grant the stewards enforcement powers.