PENSIONERS in Cheshire face a 25pc hike in home care fees.
More than 5,000 people could be hit by the massive rise, which has been proposed by Conservative councillors to help meet the tight social services budget.
It will affect anyone who pays towards home help. As well as increasing the standard charges by a quarter they also want to change the amount of savings and personal income they can have before having to pay for care.
The measures would generate an extra £750,000 a year.
Labour group leader Derek Bate-man said: "It's an absolute disgrace. Basically this is rationing of services. The people who get a care package from the council already meet very tight criteria so tightening that further and making them pay more is just ludicrous.
"It will cause a lot of anxiety to many vulnerable people and their families who just cannot afford to pay so much more.
"We will be on stand-by to write to everyone taking part as we did a year ago because it is very important that they make their views known so that the county council understands the full implications of these proposals."
Other plans include raising the price of meals-on-wheels and the cost of community transport.
Cheshire Social Services has faced a funding shortfall of £2m and the department expects to face a similar problem when setting the budgets over the next few months. But the council says the prices hike is not related to the crisis and has been caused by changes in govern-ment funding.
The move has shocked charity Age Concern.
Alex Major, information manager of the Cheshire branch, said: "Many older people are unaware of the wel-fare benefits that they are entitled to that can offset costs like this and we would encourage all older people to check their benefit entitlement and to contact their local Age Concern for advice and support."
Conservative councillor Lynn Hardwick, executive member for social services, said: "Our social services provision was given a two star rating. What people like about services in Cheshire is the high standards we provide. What we don't want to do is cut the quality of the service to meet the budget."