LUNCH is being axed by City of York Council at four sheltered housing schemes in York.

The authority says that following a period of consultation with tenants and staff, it is bringing its lunchtime meals provision in line with the wider service delivered across the city.

The changes will affect about 70 residents at Gale Farm Court, Barstow House, Glen Lodge and Marjorie Waite Court sheltered housing developments.

Paul Edmondson-Jones, Director of Health and Wellbeing, said the council will stop the existing discretionary lunchtime meals service next month.

“Currently, just 70 tenants regularly use the discretionary hot lunch provision – less than 30 per cent of customers in our Sheltered Housing developments – and numbers are declining," he said. " As a result, the council is now subsidising the service by £50,000 per year.

“Some of the tenants using the service receive care and support from the council’s in-house support team, but others are fully independent. From October, tenants who have been assessed as needing help to prepare their meals will continue to receive support to make their own lunches, in the same way they do with other meals.

“We’ve met with tenants affected by this change and given information on alternative lunch options available and we will be working with them to ensure that they have arrangements in place for a nutritious lunch once the existing service ends. We will also continue to work with tenants to ensure that there are regular social activities and events within their housing developments.”

The change has been branded 'deeply worrying' by Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Ayre, who said it was believed that most residents thought they were being consulted on changes to how the meals would be provided, not the termination of the service.

Cllr Ayre, the party's spokesperson for Finance, Performance and Health, claimed the decision also appeared to have been taken by the Labour-run council behind-closed-doors and away from proper public or political scrutiny, with no other options openly considered.

“I know that the social side of lunch is particularly valued by many residents of sheltered accommodation who otherwise risk becoming isolated in their own flats," he said. "Tenants have asked for the quality of their meals to be improved not for them to be scrapped.

“We know that Labour has lost control of the adult social care budget and missed its key savings targets. I fear that what we are seeing is an attempt to balance the books on the back of vulnerable residents by withdrawing this service.

“No doubt Labour will try to blame the government, residents or anyone else for this; however, the reality is that their own auditors have raised concerns that the council is not delivering value for money in adult social care. This is not about government cuts it is about the Cabinet Member’s failure to use the budget correctly.”

But Labour's Cabinet Member for Heath and Community Engagement, Coun. Linsay Cunningham-Cross said the council was facing unprecedented level of cuts and having to make difficult choices about how it provided its services.

"Every resident who needs support with meals will still receive this support but in a way that suits their own needs," she said.

"We want to give residents control over their own lives and make choices about where and how they access meals whether that be in their own homes or making use of local community groups or other local facilities.

"I look forward to meeting with residents across all four schemes in the coming weeks to see how we can work together and improve links with the wider community."