Vital services 'threatened by cuts'
Meals on wheels, free fruit at school and social care services for the elderly are "hanging by a thread" as councils across the UK brace themselves for the heftiest cuts in a generation, the country's biggest trade union has warned.
Unite said the elderly, children and poorer people were already feeling the pain of reduced local authority budgets, even before next month's comprehensive spending review.
Workers employed in providing social services told the union that job and budget cuts were already under way, leaving many essential services so "stretched" they will not withstand the 25% budget reduction expected in October.
One worker claimed meals on wheels users were already being told to order a takeaway if they wanted a hot meal.
Workers have written to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister reminding them of their election pledges that cuts would be "fair" and that the vulnerable would not pay the price for the financial crisis.
In the letter, the workers pointed to the "deterioration" in services already underway in areas including East Ayrshire, where the jobs of 600 personal carers are said to "hang in the balance".
Breakfast clubs, fitness schemes and play schemes are also under threat, Unite said.
It is unclear what provision for hot evening meals will remain in Birmingham, the union added.
The cuts have also seen plans to build 72 new homes in Bristol scaled back, with only 12 seemingly going ahead.
The workers' letter read: "Service reductions of this nature are cruel in their impact on those in greatest need. Vulnerable people pay most heavily if they lose the services which are often the only thing standing between them and despair. As their service providers, we cannot stand by and permit this to happen."