OFFICIALS stood firm yesterday on a decision to wind down the controversial Neighbourhood Level Community Development Project, despite strong protests from frontline social workers and residents of deprived areas. Secretary for Home Affairs, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, said his branch would be tabling the proposal to the Executive Council next week. Mr Suen said phasing out the project would release social workers for more urgent social welfare programmes pledged in previous policy addresses. A shortage of staff was partly why the Government had failed to fulfil its pledges on social welfare programmes, Mr Suen said. He said the projects, which catered for residents in the territory's most deprived areas, should be scaled down as the slums were demolished. Social workers from the project's 54 outreach teams could then move to other projects, such as help for the elderly. Mr Suen rejected a suggestion to allow the 54 teams to find new clients for themselves. 'There will be a duplication in services, with the Government also providing different kinds of services for people living in redevelopment areas,' he said. But social workers, who protested yesterday against scrapping the project, said the Government was going back on promises to have the project introduced into other areas. Chan Ching-wah, spokesman for the Alliance in Fighting for the Future of Community Development Services, said that the Government had agreed to introduce a pilot scheme, with two teams, in a bid to see whether the project could be extended to urban redevelopment areas. 'If there is no need for any social work team, then why should the Government announce setting them up in the first place?' said Mr Chan. He said the Government's unwillingness to introduce social work teams to the urban areas might be to avoid any social upheaval in the run-up to 1997. 'We suspected the underlying agenda is that the Government does not want any more social action in the transitional period,' Mr Chan said. Representatives from the Democratic Party and the Alliance for Democra-cy and People's Livelihood attended the demonstra-tion. Mr Suen denied the decision had been politically motivated.