RESIDENTS who currently receive the meals on wheels service will still be able to receive it after the council end their current contract.

Thurrock Council will end their contract for meals on wheels with the Royal Voluntary Service in March next year.

Councillor Barbara Rice, holder for social care and health, told the cabinet meeting last night that eligible service users will receive a personal budget which will include a reduced subsidy from the council, so users will be able to buy a meal of their choice.

She said: “The demand for meals on wheels has been going down steadily over the years, from 56,535 meals in 2009 to under 33,000 in 2013/14.

“At the moment each meal costs approximately £8 with the client contributing half and the council the other half.”

Councillor Rice also explained that following a consultation, overview and scrutiny recommended the end of the current contract and for the council to provide a subsidy in the form of a direct payment to service users so they can have a choice of provider.

The subsidy is set to go down to around £1.25 per meal and the cost to the client would not rise because Thurrock had “discussed with Havering Council” for them to provide meals for Thurrock clients if they wished to select them.

She said: “Users will be able to use that or choose another organisation, but we will of course provide support and advice to clients to arrange a meal service if necessary – although we won’t be actually procuring a service for meals on wheels it will ensure those who need it will still get the service they require.”

Cllr Rice explained that this would secure an initial saving of £50,000 next year with savings of around £100,000 each year after that, and she reassured members that a total of £5.25 was sufficient to provide a hot meal.