More than 1,000 elderly residents in Essex could be faced with price hikes for their meals on wheels service.

Tory-run Essex County Council has started a consultation with the 1,003 users of the hot food service as it looks to raise the price of meals from £3.95 to the full cost of £4.79.

That would mean County Hall no longer had to subsidise the service, but concerns have been raised it will hit the elderly hard.

The council has ruled out axing the service, understood to cost £260,000 a year, but has said the number taking up the meals has dwindled.

Edward Pentney, chief officer of Age UK Colchester, said: “It is very important because of the day-to-day contact the elderly people get.

“When we have so many elderly people suffering from isolation and loneliness, they at least know they are going to see someone on a daily basis."

Full story in today's Gazette