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Sussex council pays for food which isn’t made
Council officials are spending £25,000 on tens of thousands of meals for elderly vulnerable people when they do not need to.
West Sussex County Council has revealed it is contracted to pay for 400,000 Meals on Wheels dinners every year.
However, officials admit only 360,000 are needed.
The meals are never made so the food is not wasted, a council spokesman said.
But the local authority still pays for them, at a cost of £25,000 a year.
Now, as officials retender the contract, they have confirmed they will try to cut the amount of money being wasted so the service is “cost neutral”.
The arrangement, understood to be the only one of its kind run by the council, was revealed in local authority meeting papers.
The current Meals on Wheels service is delivered through two contracts due to end on November 18.
Wiltshire-based firm Apetito is paid to produce and supply food while Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) delivers it.
The contract with WRVS states the council must pay for the equivalent of 400,000 meals being delivered a year.
Yet, as not enough people are applying for them, the take up for 2011/12 was only 360,000, with bosses admitting it is at a similar level for this year.
A council spokesman confirmed there was a £25,000 surplus.
He added: “The surplus that is achieved contributes towards the overhead costs associated with the service.
“A requirement of the procurement process is that the new service should be provided at no cost to the council.”
Under the current service, a hot or frozen two-course meal on a weekday costs £4.
According to the 2010 report by the National Association of Care Catering (NACC), one in 10 elderly people in Britain are at risk of malnutrition.
By 2026 the number of West Sussex residents aged over 85 will increase by over 50%.
Both East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council said that they did not buy meals they did not need.
For more information about West Sussex Meals on Wheels, call 01903 237790.
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