The Bill is to be axed by ITV after more than a quarter of a century.

The long-running police drama – set in the fictional Sun Hill – was given a major revamp last year to win back viewers, but audiences have fallen steadily in recent years.

ITV said that the series, which stars Sarah Manners and Alex Walkinshaw, was being axed to reflect the changing tastes of viewers, but pledged to continue investing in ‘high-quality drama’.

The move, which will see the show end this year, was said to be a creative decision rather than simply to save costs.

Audiences have slipped from around seven million viewers five years ago to under four million in recent months.

Peter Fincham, ITV director of television, said: “The Bill has been a fixture on our screens for more than 25 years and has been the home of some of the UK’s best serial drama storylines, and a great showcase for terrific scriptwriting and fine acting talent.

“Thanks to a superb production team, it’s been one of the great institutions of television drama.

“But times change, and so do the tastes of our audience. This is reflected in the mix of what ITV1 will offer as a channel, with an increased focus on new and varied drama commissions for the 9.00pm slot.

“Whilst The Bill will come to an end in 2010, we will continue to invest more in drama programming than any other commercial broadcaster in the UK and viewers can look forward to a wide range of high-quality drama on ITV1.”