COUNCILLORS have clashed over changes to Blaenau Gwent's "meals on wheels" service which will see jobs cut and prices increase.

Changes approved to the council's community meals service at a full council meeting on Wednesday will reduce the number of drivers from eight to five and increase the price of a two-course meal from £4.10 to £4.75.

The second phase of the changes will see the meals service transferred to the council's adult services department which is hoped will increase a joint approach, working with other health and community providers.

But the move was opposed by Labour councillors who called for the decision to be put on hold to allow further time to assess the proposals.

The council's community meals service delivers on average of 500 meals each week, serving 135 residents, many who are vulnerable.

Cllr Steve Thomas, leader of the Labour group, said he welcomed reducing the cost pressure but urged the council not to 'rush' the decision.

Calling for the decision to be deferred, Cllr Thomas said further scrutiny was needed and called for councillors to have the opportunity to go out and meet some of the people receiving the service.

Cllr Thomas said that by not doing so the council was "treating some of the people with the greatest difficulties with disdain."

Cllr Haydn Trollope (Labour, Tredegar Central and West) also called for the move to be put on hold.

"You are asking us to move something we have not got the information about," he said.

"We are talking about making people redundant and we have not said what their job entails.

"Just remember these people are the most vulnerable people in society."

But leader of the council, Cllr Nigel Daniels, said the move was necessary to eradicate cost pressures.

Currently the community meals service is forecasting an overspend of £48,000 for this year.

Cutting staff will reduce costs by £17,350 per year, while increasing meal prices will bring an extra £16,250 per year based on current numbers.

Cllr Daniels said the proposals represented an "unpalatable truth" which the council had to face up to.

Cllr John Mason (Independent, Nantyglo) also defended the move.

"I would never put any of our users in a situation where we are not protecting them," he said.

"We have had an excellent record of improving services in this borough and finding savings at the same time."

And Cllr Wayne Hodgins (Brynmawr, Independent) said the changes could improve the meals service.

The changes aim to move the service towards a "sustainable model" amid budget pressures.

A motion put forward by Cllr Thomas to defer the decision was defeated, with an alternative proposal to approve the changes supported in a majority vote.