A lifeline service run by a charity providing thousands of hot meals a year is set to end after its funding was cut.

City Catering Southampton has said it was with “great regret” that it will deliver its last Meals On Wheels on January 19.

Southampton City Council will not be renewing its contract with the charity which has served the city for eight years. 

It comes as the authority seeks to plug a £14.1m black hole this financial year.

Helen Wilkinson's mother-in-law, who is in her 80s, relies on City Catering for a hot meal every day.

READ MORE: Southampton City Council 'carried out no consultation' over closures

The 56-year-old said: “It is awful – food is a vital basic need. My mother-in-law is bedbound a lot of the time and could not cook a meal herself.

“She isn’t even in a position to carry plates herself. She is totally reliant on the service provided by Meals on Wheels.

"The prospect of what might happen to some people without this service frightens me. This will have a huge impact on the housebound and elderly across the city.

“They don’t just deliver food but for some people without a family, it can actually be the only chance they get to have a chat and cup of tea with someone."

According to its website, Southampton City Catering serves 30,000 meals a year.

In the letter, Chief Executive Gary McMahon said its funding came from the sale of the meals and a financial contribution from the council.

He said they had "always regarded what they do as an essential service" and would be "working with the council to ensure that alternative care provision is provided for clients" beyond January 19.

Daily Echo: Like those receiving food from Meals On Wheels, the residents of Potters and Erskine Court rely on food deliveriesLike those receiving food from Meals On Wheels, the residents of Potters and Erskine Court rely on food deliveries (Image: Ross Marshall)

A spokesperson for Southampton City Council said the authority has been "subsidising the running of the service for clients at a cost of £28,000 per year".

"Those affected by the ending of this contract are being written to, to outline the support they will receive and highlighting alternative meals on wheels and food delivery options they may wish to use instead."

It comes after the council made the decision to close restaurants at the Potters and Erskine Court, which City Catering also supplies.

Daily Echo: Millbrook councillors Jeremy Moulton and Steve Galton met with the residents of Potters Court on Friday (13th October)Millbrook councillors Jeremy Moulton and Steve Galton met with the residents of Potters Court on Friday (13th October) (Image: Ross Marshall)

At a meeting with Millbrook ward councillors on Thursday, residents told Steve Galton and Jeremy Moulton that a crisis is on the horizon when the restaurants shut.

Resident of Potters Court, Mark Lendon, 50, said at the meeting: "Many of us chose to live here with the restaurant in mind. Now we will all need our Care Assessment Plans re-evaluated.

"That will take a very long time and could also cost the council a tremendous amount of time and money.

"The money needed to come up with new care plans is likely to cost a lot more than the subsidiary cost to run the restaurants." 

Cllr Galton, from the Conservatives, said: “My take is that the council have hit the panic button in regard to its financial situation and is now making rushed decisions without thinking of the knock-on effects to residents.

“We are working very hard as Millbrook ward councillors and the opposition to question the council on whether they are making the right decision. For me, this is just not the right way to treat people."

Also speaking at the meeting was ward councillor Jeremy Moulton. He added: “This area is one of the biggest areas of local government expenditure and that’s why these services in particular are suffering.

“Someone has sat behind a desk and make these cutbacks without considering the real-life implications on residents.

"This feels like an attack on the disabled and vulnerable residents in the city."

Speaking at a council meeting on Thursday (October 12), Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Adults, Health and Housing, Lorna Fielker said the council should have done a better job communicating the closure of the restaurants.

She added: "We will be keeping the dining room facilities open. Other extra care facilities do not have restaurants and they operate fine."

The council spokesperson added: "Other support will include Care Act reviews by adult social care for those identified as particularly vulnerable to make sure their needs are met. 

"Customers or their carers with concerns can contact Adult Social Care on 023 8083 3003."