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Forest Hill pensioners' group Seniors take on 'bullying' board members
Elderly members of a Forest Hill community group are calling for the heads of their new trustees, claiming money is being misspent and their manager is being bullied out of the organisation.
Pensioners who piled in to an extraordinary general meeting in Stanstead Road on February 26 were united in their anger at the way the Lewisham Council-funded Seniors charity for over-50s is being run.
Councillor Peggy Fitzsimmons, who chaired the meeting, told them: "As a founder member of Seniors, over my dead body will I let it go under."
The meeting heard there was no progress from newly-elected trustees on fixing their leaking roof and fire alarm, yet £2,000 was being given each month to new partners Eco Communities without any contract being signed.
Meanwhile it was suggested a newly permanent member of staff was being paid a monthly £1,113 salary - more than a quarter of their outgoings.
Eco - a social enterprise which has been widely praised since taking over the borough's libraries - received cautious backing at the meeting for a promise to provide £50,000 funding.
But it was the "appalling" treatment of old hand Terry Thompson by a handful of new trustees, which inspired anger.
Cllr Fitzsimmons said: "The trustees are having a meeting and they're going for a no confidence vote in Terry.
"That's appalling. He's kept this place going through thick and thin."
One woman stood up and told the crowd: "The new trustees have been in here five minutes and they're bullying people.
"Us pensioners aren't going to get bullied into this."
Others called for the trustees to be stopped from spending any money and for a new board to be elected.
Cllr Fitzsimmons pledged to meet the trustees and relay the concerns.
Afterwards trustee James Dobson, who sat in the building's cafe, claiming he was not allowed in the meeting, told News Shopper they were being stopped from seeing the accounts - stopping them spending money in the way members want - and ideas like renting out an office were being blocked.
He said: "As a trust we have a legal obligation for the proper stewardship of this organisation.
"When we've asked for financial information we've either not got it or it's been totally inadequate."
He added: "Until we get that, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck."