Axeing Meals on Wheels subsidy is a step too far

European workers including nurses, social workers and teaching assistants protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London before lobbying MPs over their right to remain in the UK.  Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

RICK JACKSON: Why aren’t we on the streets protesting about Brexit?

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Look, we understand that cash-strapped local authorities are having to make some tough decisions.

Just like family finances in tough economic times, council budgets simply won’t stretch to meet every demand and cutbacks have to be considered.

But we have to be concerned at today’s revelation that the long-established Meals on Wheels service in Portsmouth, provided by the Royal Voluntary Service, is no longer to be subsidised by the council.

At the moment it pays £2.24 towards the £5.74 cost of each meal – quite a chunk.

But come December 1 this payment is going to stop and people in the city will have to pay the full costs themselves or stop receiving the meals.

Inevitably, there will be those who will be unable to afford to carry on enjoying the service. Paying £5.74 a day is very different from £3.50, particularly if you’re a pensioner who has to watch every penny carefully.

What concerns us is that if they no longer have hot meals from Meals on Wheels, what are they going to eat instead?

Will it be as nutritious? Will they even be able to get out to the shops to buy food?

And then there’s the timing. It won’t be long before we’re into winter and the temperature will drop.

Hot food then becomes more and more important for the elderly.

And it’s also a time of year when heating costs shoot up, meaning less money available for food.

As Muriel Deacon, president of the Portsmouth Pensioners’ Association, says: ‘More than £5 a meal is a lot to find.

‘I understand that the council have to make cuts and I know they are working hard to make our lives better despite the cuts, but this is just too far.

‘Hot meals mean a lot to these people and I would hate the thought of them struggling through winter.’

So would we. Surely a council’s priorities should always lie with children and the elderly?

We urge the city council to look again at this decision and see if the necessary savings can be achieved by other means.