FURIOUS elderly residents have accused council chiefs of washing their hands of them after they pulled the plug on their meal service.

The most vulnerable elderly people in Worcestershire have slammed catering cuts at sheltered housing schemes.

Lunch clubs will stop across the county on January 1 next year following £50,000 of cuts by Worcestershire County Council as part of plans to save £25 million over the next three years.

Eddie Clarke, head of health and social care at the council, has written to housing associations advising them that residents must choose between frozen ready meals or meals and wheels service provided by the Women's Royal Voluntary Service instead.

Brian Hunt and Ron Chambers of the Worcestershire Pensioner's Action Group, both members the National Pensioner's Convention, are campaigning to save the lunch clubs in Worcester which they say are essential to older people.

Mr Chamber's 86 year-old father John is based at Chelmsford Court in Ronkswood.

Both are concerned about the nutritional value of ready meals compared to hot, home-cooked meals.

Mr Hunt said: "We might as well leave them in their rooms and push their meals under the door. The idea is to get them out when they eat. When people are old the last thing they want is to be left alone. The council is washing its hands of the elderly."

"There are people in wheelchairs, blind people. The care element is going away. They're supposed to take care of those people. You can't really go much lower than reducing food services."

Denis Margrett, aged 88, has lived at Rowan Court in Tolladine for the last 18 years and has Angina, heart disease, emphysema and walks with a stick.

He said: "I feel it's an absolute disgrace. The council will of course blame the Government for giving them inadequate handouts. Worcestershire is always last in the queue for handouts but that's no excuse for the county council.

William Edgehill, aged 92, who lives at sheltered accommodation in Lincoln Green, Ronkswood, said: "The meals here are quite satisfactory. This is just ridiculous. It's a blight on people who can't get about to get their meals. Some people don't even leave their flat unless they can get their lunch."

The cuts will hit sheltered housing units across Worcester, including Chelmsford Court, Rowan Court and Himbleton House, managed by Worcester Community Housing.

The Heriotts in Droitwich and Alexander Gardens and Stores Court in Malvern and The Harling Court in Ledbury, part of the Elgar Housing Association, also face the cuts.

The cash cuts cover the preparation of the meals - residents pay for the food themselves.

In a letter to Eddie Clarke, head of health and social care at Worcestershire County Council, housing managers at the Festival Housing Group, Rooftop Housing Group and Community Housing Group, said they were "surprised and disappointed" by the decision.

They said in a letter drafted between them: "We are particularly keen to learn why this decision has been taken at a time when the expansion of the supply of nutritional meals to older people has been identified as a principal strategic aim of the Older Person's Housing Strategy."

A spokesperson for Worcestershire County Council said there was a need to make "significant savings" which was forcing them to take very difficult decisions.

She added: "We have subsidised catering costs in Very Sheltered Housing Units for a number of years and the decision to withdraw this funding in six months' time was not taken lightly.

"We have already been working closely with these units for some considerable time to help them find additional ways of generating income and find alternative, cost-effective ways of delivering a nutritional service to tenants, such as The Community Meals Service."