Removing entire subsidy for meals on wheels service in East Sussex ‘short-sighted’ say Lib Dems

Meals on Wheels service
Meals on Wheels service

Plans to remove the entire subsidy for East Sussex’s meals on wheels service have been criticised as ‘short-sighted’ by the Lib Dems.

Back in 2015 Apetito’s contract to run meals in the community ended as East Sussex County Council moved away from a single provider arrangement.

However facing the need to find £46m of savings over the next three years the authority is considering removing the entire £469,400 annual subsidy that supports clients to pay for their meals from a range of different providers.

They would then have to pay the full cost of the service.

Proposals are included in the council’s core offer, which sets out the authority’s approach to the future delivery of services within the available budget.

Councillors have been assured that those vulnerable residents who will lose this funding will be signposted appropriately but the Lib Dems say there is no guarantee that these residents will access nutritious balanced meals and this could have an effect on their health.

Kathryn Field (LDem, Battle and Crowhurst) said: “Balanced meals are essential for good health. Removing this subsidy is very short-sighted like the removal of other preventative services.

“This will put more pressure on food banks and on the wonderful volunteers who operate them and the kind people who make donations.”

John Ungar (LDem, Eastbourne - Old Town) added: “The people who will need to find large sums of money to feed themselves are some of the more vulnerable in our communities. They only receive the subsidy because they need and are eligible for it.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “So far this decade we have had to save £129 million and, with a reduction in Government funding, an increase in costs and a rise in demand for services, we continue to face financial challenges.

“The proposed core offer not only sets out a realistic approach which will help us continue to deliver quality, value-for-money services where they are more needed, but will enable us to clearly articulate to the Government the reasonable level of services we think residents should be entitled to expect and the level of funding we need to deliver them.

“We continue to encourage members of the public and organisations to complete a public survey, telling us if they agree with this approach, our priorities and how they think we should address the financial challenges. The public survey, available until December 26, can be found at https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/governance-and-community-services/a-core-offer-for-east-sussex.

“The proposed core offer is not a budget paper, but a guide to help us plan spending over the next three years. The councils budget will be set by full council.”