FEARS for the elderly have been raised after it was revealed the price of meals on wheels may go up.

Essex County Council has started a consultation with users, to run until July 7, and wants to raise the price of meals from £3.95 to the full cost of £4.79 by removing a subsidy of 84p.

If the hike goes ahead, 137 residents in Chelmsford and the surrounding areas would be affected. The council has ruled out axing the service, understood to cost £260,000 a year.

Chief executive of Age UK Essex Andrew Gardner said there were other ways people could get a meal, but he would like an impact assessment done.

He said: “If these people are on the cusp of fuel poverty does that mean they will have to choose between heating and eating? If that’s the case, that is unacceptable in this day and age.”

Anne Brown, councillor responsible for adult social care, said: “I am aware that, for some residents, meals on wheels is a vital service.

“However, as alternative options have appeared in the market – such as supermarket home delivery and community lunch clubs – the number of customers has fallen, which means it is difficult to continue to provide the service in its current guise and provide value for money for Essex taxpayers.”