Wirral Council grants for pensioner lunch clubs are to be scrapped, sparking an angry reaction from opposition councillors.

The department for adult social services has written to clubs saying their funding - totalling £72,000 - is to be removed at the end of March.

The Labour-run authority says the money will be "reinvested in tackling pensioner isolation."

There are more than 50 clubs established across the borough and many are financially supported by the Big Lottery Fund and other organisations.

They take place in community centres, often run by volunteers. The council grants help towards cost of meals and transport for pensioners.

Conservative councillor Bruce Berry said: “This decision has been sneaked out without virtually any consultation among the groups affected - and there is now less than six weeks to find alternative funds or face closure.

“Not one of the community groups affected by this policy has been asked to serve on the panel that reviewed the spending and the council has failed to communicate with all the clubs affected.

“The effect of this policy will have the opposite result to the one the town hall claims.

"Instead of freeing up £72,000 to spend on pensioners the existing 200 or more isolated, vulnerable and often lonely individuals will be left sitting in their own homes.

"That’s not tackling isolation – it’s creating it.”

Councillor Chris Jones, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “Luncheon clubs throughout the borough are well-attended and provide a valuable and often undervalued service.

"The great majority of these clubs are provided by independent organisations and are largely self-financing – people pay a small fee for their lunch which helps fund the service, and no additional funding is required.

“The majority of the funding that we had been providing to support a small number of luncheon clubs is now being given to the Older People Living Well partnership group to help support their wider work, particularly with regard to tackling social isolation.

"However, we will continue to assist these clubs to help them continue and become sustainable."

Councillor Jones added: “In the meantime, there are other options available – each constituency is allocated funding every year to commission work to address local issues and I am aware parts of this funding have been left unspent in areas across the borough.

"I would encourage elected members in each constituency to review what funding they have available and consider if they can use some of the funding to support these luncheon clubs in their local areas.”

The website of support group Wirral Community Action says the clubs are a place where people come together to share a meal - but they are much more than that: "It is about providing people with opportunities for social contact and activities, to reduce social isolation and staying well and active.

"For many the time that they spend at lunch clubs, the low cost, nutritional meals provided and the additional services on offer at some, are vital to their health and emotional well-being."