Price hike for meals on wheels

PUBLISHED: 14:00 19 February 2015

Archant

AN ‘UNFAIR’ hike in the cost of community meals on wheels will impact on pensioners later this year.

North Somerset councillors have voted to increase the cost by more than six per cent per meal as part of this year’s budget, with the final decision confirmed at a meeting of the authority on Tuesday.

A hot meal provided by the service currently costs £4; however, the new charges would see this rise to £4.25 per meal. The afternoon tea service, which includes a sandwich and a snack, would rise by almost seven per cent from £2.90 to £3.10 per meal.

This means that someone who receives a hot meal only, five times per week, could be hit by an increase of around £104 per year.

North Somerset Liberal Democrat group leader Mike Bell told the executive: “A six percent increase is really unfair. This is a huge amount per person which could deter people from using meals on wheels.

“The service is a vital means of human contact for some people and an increase in charges could risk putting some people off. I really wonder whether this is the right course of action.”

Council leader Nigel Ashton said: “I do want to protect this service, but we have to try to cover our costs. Community meals on wheels still provides very good value for money.

“We intend to monitor the situation and will ensure that nobody drops this service because of financial reasons.”

According to figures from January, some 450 North Somerset residents receive meals on wheels.

Philip Dolan, chief executive of Age UK Somerset, said: “It is a concern that some of our elderly residents could be asked to pay another six per cent for their hot meals.

“For many users of this vital service it is the only opportunity for them to have a daily hot meal. While we recognise just how difficult it is for councils to balance the books, we would encourage councillors to look elsewhere for savings and protect such an important service for our elderly residents.”

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