THE cost of the meals on wheels service in Portsmouth is set to rocket.
The service, which provides daily hot food for 332 people across the city, will see a huge increase in costs when the council withdraws its subsidy.
Currently, the council pays £2.24 towards the £5.74 meal but, on December 1, this will stop and the users of the service will have to pay the full costs themselves. Since making the decision, the council has been trying to find a way to provide meals at a lower rate.
Muriel Deacon, president of the Portsmouth Pensioners’ Association, said the decision came at the wrong time.
She said: ‘The full prices are going to be right near the start of the winter months. People are going to be paying for heating and to find an extra £2.24 per meal could be difficult for some.
‘It seems like a small amount but it does build up and 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.’
The Meals on Wheels service will still be supplied by the Royal Voluntary Service and the quality will be improved.
But a user of the service, who did not wish to be named, was upset.
The 81-year-old said: ‘It is a disgrace that the council is doing this.
‘I know people who rely on those meals who would struggle to pay the extra and I think this makes Portsmouth City Council the worst council in the country.
‘Many of the people cannot get out to go shopping and this could be the only hot meal they get and the council want to make them pay over £5. I just don’t think it’s right.’
But the council says it is working hard to find another supplier.
Rob Watt, head of adult social care at the city council, said: ‘Earlier this year the council took the difficult decision that due to financial pressures we could no longer subsidise services such as the Meals on Wheels and that recipients would need to pay the full cost, as is the case in many other local authorities.
‘Since then we have been working to find a way of providing meals while keeping the costs down.
‘We have written to all Meals on Wheels users and will let them know as soon as the new cost is confirmed.’