The politician responsible for running social care in Birmingham has been accused of undermining the city council’s meals on wheels service by helping to promote a private sector firm which supplies lunches to elderly people.
Labour attacked Sue Anderson, insisting that her judgment was compromised by her apparent backing for Wiltshire Farm Foods, a company offering doorstep delivery of pre-cooked meals from £1.80 for a main course.
Coun Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) is making a major review of the meals on wheels service, which she said would provide older people with a greater choice when it is concluded.
But Liberal Democrats in her own ward of Sheldon have been delivering a leaflet promoting Wiltshire Farm Foods, with a website address and telephone number. The leaflet adds: “Great food delivered to your door. Eating during cold weather is important but many people find preparing food a problem. We recommend Wiltshire Farm Foods.”
The leaflet has a picture of Yardley Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming and an elderly woman reading a Wiltshire Farm Foods menu.
Council opposition Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore said it was obvious that Coun Anderson had a “clear conflict of interest” on the issue and has asked the council chief executive Stephen Hughes to investigate.
When questioned at a council meeting, Coun Anderson defended the leaflet. She said: “We are trying to give people information about a variety of services. I want people to be able to make choices about the services they access, as many people do already.
“When we give information it is about encouraging people to look at alternatives and reaching people who do not access our services at the moment.”
Coun Anderson stressed that the review was “not about cutting costs in any way” but was part of the council’s business transformation project, which seeks to provide better value services. She added that demand for meals on wheels had fallen in recent years.
Coun Anderson said: “People are turning their backs on the service. There are organisations that will provide frozen meals and deliver them to the house and the number of people who use the meals on wheels service is dropping. We are also aware that certain sectors of the community aren’t being reached. We are looking at other organsiations that could provide these services locally.”
Coun Anderson promised that money saved after the meals on wheels review would be for the social services budget.