Councillors will be kicking pensioners while they’re down if a potential meals on wheels price hike goes ahead, according to a campaign group.

More than 1,000 elderly people across the county benefit from the hot food service, including 102 in the Braintree district.

But Tory-run Essex County Council has started a consultation 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.

Currently, people pay £3.95 for each meal with County Hall paying an additional subsidy of 84p.

Braintree Pensioners Action group chairman Graham Oates, of Earls Colne, said: “The reason people have meals on wheels is because they’re unable to cook for themselves and it makes sure they get at least one hot meal a day.

“A lot of them are already disabled so kick them while they’re down, that seems to be the theory here.

“Pensioners are already being penalised in every possible way."

See the Gazette for the full story