Caerphilly Council are considering axing ‘Meals on Wheels’ and day services across the county.
The services, used mainly by the elderly and disabled, were discussed at a special meeting on July 17. One proposal was to cease provision of all day services.
At the start of June this year 811 people attended day care, provided by 179 employees, who could face redundancy under the proposals.
Day care is primarily used by people living independently in their own homes and completely cutting it would save £4.26m a year.
The council’s financial plan calls for savings of over £13m between 2015 and 2017 in order to balance the budget as part of the UK Government’s austerity drive.
The Welsh Government has warned there could be more funding cuts, and the worst case scenario would mean the council must save £16.7m between 2015 and 2017. This would take the total cuts to almost £30m.
A council report says cutting day care completely would likely lead to a greater demand for other services. Another option is to outsource the care to the third sector and private companies.
But trade union sources said councillors were worried that privatisation would not save cash.
Other options include reducing the number of centres and only allowing access to those with “substantial and critical needs”.
These options would save significantly less money and would make workers vulnerable to redundancy, according to the report.
‘Meals on Wheels’ could also be axed to save £252,000 a year, affecting 336 users of the council’s Meals Direct service.
Another option presented to councillors is increasing the cost of the service from £2.60 per meal to between £3.10 and £5.10, bringing Caerphilly into line with other Welsh local authorities.
Delivering frozen meals in bulk to residents is also an alternative.
A report presented to councillors warns that increasing the price or delivering frozen meals could mean less demand for the service – putting the financial viability of the service in question.
It said if the service was scrapped altogether, then the possibility of local delivery from cafés and pubs would need to be explored.
Seven other councils in Wales are also considering scrapping their ‘Meals on Wheels’ service.
On CaerphillyObsever.co.uk, Caerphilly town councillor, Richard Williams, said: “At a cost per user of less than £15 per week we are helping people to remain in their own homes, rather than having to move them to an institution where the cost is typically more than £700 per week.
“I think the council should look first at a modest price increase and leave the service intact. This would cut the expenditure required and not produce any new costs arising from the scrapping of this service.”
However, Caerphilly Labour Party warned “speculative scare mongering” in the media about possible cuts was “premature”.
Council Leader, Cllr Keith Reynolds, said: “At this stage, these are proposals for consideration, along with many others.
“No final decisions will be taken until February 2015 – after full consultation.
“We hope that as many residents as possible will consider the proposals for savings and give us feedback on their priorities for future council service provision.”
A Labour group spokesperson said: “Ultimately very hard choices must be made and we put the blame for cuts in council services squarely at the door of the Tory-led Westminster government, which has savagely cut our Welsh Government’s grant”.
Plaid Cymru group leader, Colin Mann, said: “We recognise the need for the council to look at the way ‘Meals on Wheels’ are delivered but it is essential in any proposals that people who are in need receive a decent meal during the day time.
“The way the Labour Party can stop media speculation about a range of possible cuts is to be honest, open and upfront about what is proposed for a range of council services. And that needs to happen as soon as possible.”