Action has been demanded to protect mini-market staff following armed robberies within hours of each other at Co-ops in Oxenhope and Cullingworth.

Shocked ward councillors insist the safety of staff working at night in village convenience stores must be ensured.

Cullingworth Village Council chairman Councillor Jacqui Guy said improvements are needed at isolated stores.

She added: “There has to be a radical rethink of security – shops have a duty of care to their staff.

“Perhaps they should operate like garages, with a night-time counter and a bullet-proof window.”

Co-operative Food this week confirmed it would be reviewing security at the two stores following the Saturday night incidents.

A reign of terror by two men wearing balaclavas and wielding hammers saw four shops attacked in less than an hour.

The pair raided the Co-op in Greenside Lane, Cullingworth, at 8.38pm, and the Co-op in Station Road, Oxenhope, just 13 minutes later.

The gang, believed to be driving a Volkswagen Golf with false number plates, sped to Halifax where they robbed two more shops by 9.30pm.

The spree follows a wave of night-time robberies and ram-raids in recent years on shops in rural areas, including Cullingworth, Oxenhope, Denholme and Haworth.

Coun Khadim Hussain, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, this week described the level of rural robberies as “worrying” at a time when crime in the district is generally dropping.

He said: “These hard-core, wanton criminals are resorting to robbing village shops. These gangs have a sophisticated network.

“The issue is that the lives of the shop assistants are put at risk. No one appears to be safe.”

Oxenhope Parish Council chairman, Tony Moore, said the use of threats and weapons in the latest attacks was very concerning.

He added: “Although staff weren’t harmed, it’s still a shock and unnerving. It’s a step upwards – in the past, what happened was ram raiding or breaking a window.”

A Co-operative Food spokesman said the two men threatened staff and stole a quantity of cash and cigarettes.

He added: “There were several members of staff in both stores at the time who were unhurt, but were left extremely shaken.

“The safety of our customers and staff is of utmost importance to us, and we take all incidents of retail crime extremely seriously.”

Police have appealed for anyone with information about the incidents to contact CID on 101.

Detective Inspector Neil Benstead said the four robberies were being officially linked.

He added: “The suspects were using a dark-coloured – possibly blue or black – Volkswagen Golf, with registration number FR12 UFW.

“The suspect vehicle had earlier attended petrol stations in Thornton Road and Haworth Road, Bradford, in an attempt to steal petrol.”