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Hot dinners for pensioners at day centres must be priority
9:00am Monday 18th March 2013 in Echo News
MEALS will still be provided for pensioners at Basildon’s day centres, but changes will have to be made.
Basildon Council is cutting £30,000 from its catering budget, leaving many elderly people who use its four day centres fearing they would lose out on the subsidised hot meals that cost just £3.20 a day.
The council currently spends £158,600 a year on providing the dinners at the George Hurd Centre, in Audley Way, Basildon, the Place in Northlands Pavement, Pitsea, the Laindon Activity Centre, in Aston Road, Laindon, and the Wickford Priority Club.
But Terri Sargent, Basildon councillor responsible for community, said the spending does not represent value for money for the council, local people or users of the centre.
She said: “I would like to make it clear the welfare catering service is not being stopped.
“What we are now doing is reviewing what is a heavily subsidised service to ensure we are getting good value for money.
“We are subsidising every snack and hot meal that we serve by £4.40, and that also includes also charging the customer.
“The cost of subsidising a two-course hot meal is simply not sustainable any longer, particularly when we are only serving around 85 meals a day across all four venues.”
Mrs Sargent said the council is looking at ways to continue providing day centre members with hot food and councillors have even discussed a voluntary or community group getting involved.
Dorothy Steel, 69, joined the George Hurd Centre, last year. She said keeping hot dinners on the menu should be a priority.
She said she cannot fault the centre and described the canteen staff as “wonderful”, but said she was shocked to read in the Echo that the meals subsidised by the council could be under threat.
She said: “It’s heartbreaking to think people might not be having their dinners.
“They don’t want a lot and are not asking for handouts, but they just want a bit of pleasure during the week.
“It would be a shame if they get rid of them, it really really shocked me.
“Some of them can’t go to restaurants like other people can. Someone needs to speak up for them, they’re not to be forgotten.”