MEALS on wheels will now cost taxpayers £2.70 a meal less after the council negotiated a new deal with providers.

Members of the authority’s health and wellbeing committee were told on Tuesday that, despite the council facing some £37 million in cuts over the next few years, meals on wheels would not only be the same quality at no extra cost but actually cheaper.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Barbara Rice explained how the saving had been made.

She said: “Currently the meals cost £8, half paid by the user and half by the council.

“We have negotiated with the organisation which provides meals for many of our schools, Brakes Brothers Catering Consortium – an organisation which has won many prizes for its service and which we share with Havering and Barking and Dagenham - so we can offer users meals for £4 and we pay a further £1.30.

“That saves £2.70 per meal and we provide 33,000 meals a year guaranteeing service users a hot meal of the same quality at no extra cost.”

She added there would also be more flexibility for those using the meals on wheels service.

“We will also be offering the service users the chance to buy in their own service if they want to do so and we’ll support them with a direct payment, so there’ll be choice as well as a saving.

“I’m sure some people will find this new service better than the old one – whether they choose their own provider or use ours – but I do understand others will not appreciate the change.

“That is why the support and advice must be on hand and in good time and that is why cabinet will be looking at this in early September so we have six months or more to help people come to terms with the changes we’re having to make.”