PENSIONERS in Ystradgynlais are leading an insurrection after Powys County Council increased their day centre charges and then bumped up their dinner costs by 50 per cent.

The OAPs at the Canolfan day centre are refusing to pay the full whack after the cash-strapped council raised daily charges from £10 to £15, and added another £3 on the cost of meals, meaning pensioners dependent on the service are now forced to cough up £22.50 per day.

Sixteen users of the centre are now refusing to budge, and have been paying £5 for the £7.50 meals dished out by the council, since a short-notice circular announced the changes last week.

The OAPs complained that the huge rise has left them out of pocket, chewing into a big chunk of their weekly pension.

Simone Lloyd-Davies, the group’s ring leader, said the charges were a threat to the centre, with many pensioners in open revolt at the spike in charges.

“We’re refusing to pay the full amount of £7.50 and we’re only paying £5. The staff are accepting the money and giving us the meals – but they said we’d probably get a whacking great bill from the county council at some stage!”

Mrs Lloyd-Davies said the group are suggesting to the council that the size of the meals should be reduced, as portions are so large, much of the food ends up in the bin. She said: “We have suggested to Powys County Council that the caterers give us smaller portions – less meat as meat is expensive. We would be prepared to pay £5 for a smaller meal. Some OAPs need to attend the day centre several days a week, so three days at £22.50 would cost them £57.50 per week. Quite a lot of one’s pension, when there are so many other expenses to be paid.”

The 95-year-old said the charges would force fellow pensioners to stay home ‘in our boxes’ and damage the OAPs’ social lives.

“We did suggest bringing our own sandwiches, and the council said it would still charge the £15 per day. I think that is an absolutely crazy idea.”

The cutbacks stem from a decision taken last year, which kept Powys day centres open, but with swingeing cuts planned.

A ruling cabinet agreed to restore over £1m in funds, so a reduced service could be kept up in day centres across Powys, including Arosfa in Brecon, Maesyffynon centre in Crickhowell, and Arlais in Llandrindod Wells and Canolfan in Ystradgynlais.

Back in December, Councillor Stephen Hayes, cabinet member for social care, warned that extra funding would spark a council tax rise, a notion Councillor Wynne Jones warned would spike the council’s deficit for 2019/20 to £4 million, from £1m a year.

Funding had been cut for the last three years, before being pulled completely this year, until a last-minute reprieve saw day centres saved, but forced to run a reduced service and steep price rises forced on pensioners.

Cllr Stephen Hayes, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “During 2016, Powys County Council carried out extensive consultation to explore new and innovative ways of providing day time activities for older people in either the council owned day centres, or out in the wider community.

“It was clear from the response that the council-owned day centres, and those we subsidise, offer much more not only to the older people who attend, but to families and carers for much needed respite and support.

“As a result, the portfolio holder for finance and myself, at the time, proposed a reduced budget to maintain a current service while alternate long-term arrangements could be explored. During the consultation a number of service users suggested that they would be prepared to pay an increased contribution to ensure the service continued. As a result the Cabinet approved a report to raise the charges both for attendance and meals. However, not all service user charges for attendance would be raised as there is a cap on charges for community-based social care, which includes domiciliary care provision. Based on last year’s figures, the actual cost per meal to the council at the Canolfan Day Centre was £14.57. This includes daily refreshments at the centre in addition to the meal itself. Under the new costing, a hot meal would be £5, and £2 for beverages throughout the day, with 50p for on costs. Even with the higher rate of £7.50, the council is subsidising the cost by £7.07 per meal. We understand the frustration that some service users have in relation to the cost of their meals.

“Officers are due to visit service users, families and carers at the centre in early July to discuss the issue further.”