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No saviour found for over 50s meal service
THE hot meals service at day centres for the over-50s looks certain to be scrapped after no one came forward to run it.
The subsidised service has been under threat for months after Basildon Council revealed it needed to save £30,000 from its catering budget.
In July, the council invited bids for an outsider to run the hot meals services at its day centres in Pitsea and Laindon and at the George Hurd Centre, in Audley Way, Basildon.
Yesterday, it was announced no one had come forward and the service faced the axe.
Terri Sargent, Basildon councillor responsible for community, said: “We tried to make the prospect as attractive as possible by providing the facilities, including the gas and electricity, free to anyone who would take on the service.
“The council was also prepared to provide additional financial support in the short term, but in the end this was clearly not enough.
“The fact not one organisation or group came forward does emphasise how difficult it is to keep providing this service in its current form and in the current climate.”
The hot meals service costs Basildon Council £158,600 a year with £128,500 going on kitchen staff.
Day centre users are asked to contribute £3.60 towards their hot meals, but the additional £4.40 cost of the food is subsidised by the council.
Of the borough’s 59,688 residents over the age of 50, just 2,206, about 4 per cent, attend the three day centres with even fewer taking up the hot meals.
Mrs Sargent said: “In the current financial climate when we are having to make difficult decisions about where to spend money and where to make savings it is hard to justify continuing to fund this discretionary service.”
Despite the fact the council is now expected to axe the service, the authority will carry out one last consultation with day centre members to establish the effect axing it will have.
Aquestionnaire from all three day centres is now available for people to complete and must be returned by September 11.
The hot meals will then be discussed by councillors next month.
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