PLANS to axe the council's meals on wheels service have been derailed further after a row over the decision being discussed behind closed doors.

The local authority was set to stop serving meals and make way for private companies to offer their services instead – but the decision was "called in" for further debate.

The first stage of the scrutiny process was set to get underway on Monday night in the absence of the press and any members of the public.

Borough solicitor Helen Gorman explained that the report is confidential because it identifies members of staff who would lose their jobs if the changes go ahead as well as affecting service users who face uncertainty.

But Cllr Nick Peel successfully opposed the exclusion of the press from the meeting, arguing that the decision should be discussed in public.

He said: "There’s clearly a huge public interest in this item. The staff are all aware of it, the staff have all been consulted – the staff have talked about nothing else but this – so to say that this is a confidential item to protect staff is clearly nonsense."

Under the proposals, which were given the go ahead by the cabinet this month, the council subsidy of the meals would be scrapped, saving the town hall around £300,000 a year.

But Labour, who called for the review into the future of the service when they were in control of the council, demanded further scrutiny of the decision before it is enacted.

Changes to the community meals service, which would affect 323 service users and 16 members of staff as well as drivers, were due to take effect in January.

But the decision process has been delayed further as the meeting was adjourned to allow the council to prepare a non-confidential report which can be discussed in public.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr Roger Hayes, who did not support Cllr Peel's attempts to discuss the matter in public, joked that the process would "take longer than Brexit".

After the meeting, executive cabinet member for adult services, Cllr Andy Morgan, said he was "disappointed" by Labour's "unprecedented" move which means the council could miss its deadline.

He said: “We have absolutely no problem in talking about this report in open session. We are confident that this proposal will be to the detriment to nobody. This saving option is not going to happen and we are going to have to find these savings elsewhere."

Cllr Morgan also warned that the transition period it had planned to help ease service users into the changes will be shorter as a result of the delays.

Council officers will now produce a non-confidential report to be discussed at the next scrutiny committee meeting.

The matter can then be sent to a full council meeting so that all councillors can have a say on the proposals.

After this, the decision can be returned with a recommendation to the cabinet which will have the final say.