A 40% RISE in the price of hot food delivered to the elderly by Pembrokeshire County Council’s “meals on wheels” service has sparked concerns about the future of the service within County Hall.

An employee connected to the service contacted the Western Telegraph to draw attention to the steep rise in the cost of the meals – from £3.10 to £4.34 – due to come in this week.

“It just seems so wrong,” said the employee.

“Most of these people have got nothing and they are being used as a stepping stone for the council to make money.”

The employee said his “gut feeling” was the council was attempting to “price itself out of providing the service” with the hike, by causing pensioners to seek out a cheaper means of feeding themselves.

“I’m afraid I will soon be out of work,” he said.

“This may be me being cynical, but I think it’s [the rise] to price the County Council out of providing the service so they don’t have to do it any more.

“There are other companies who deliver frozen meals, but a lot of people who use the meals on wheels service aren’t really capable of heating up food.

“That’s my gut feeling. It’s such a big rise. I have spoken to some of these old folk and they say a rise to about £3.50 would be ok.

“Some of them are worried about how they will pay the new price. I know times are hard, but this is a big jump.”

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire County Council said the authority had to make “substantial savings in the current and next financial year of £20million”.

“To achieve these savings is challenging, but we are on course to deliver them with only minimal disruption to some services provided to the public,” she said.

“We have undertaken a review of the services delivered to establish whether there are some that should either be reduced or discontinued. In respect of the charges for both meals on wheels and meals provided at day centres, it became evident that the existing charge of £3.10 per meal did not cover the actual cost of providing that meal.

“The revised charge of £4.34 per meal will both cover the cost of producing that meal and also ensure that the hot food service can continue to be offered to customers.”