Officers to attend senior forum after ‘frightening’ scenes

Central Library
Central Library

Police officers have been called in to keep the peace at a community meeting - after a furious row between a group of angry pensioners threatened to boil over.

Lancashire Police has today confirmed it has launched an investigation after a furious exchange led to a security guard being called to the last meeting of the Blackpool Senior Voice Forum, which then had to be abandoned.

The row was sparked by alleged comments by one member aimed at another member of the group, which holds committee meetings at Blackpool’s Central Library.

Harry Spillman, 67, a former Brighton councillor who only recently joined the group, raised the issue at a committee meeting in August, having taken exception to a comment allegedly made at a meeting two months earlier.

But the matter sparked an increasingly heated exchange, today described by some witnesses as “frightening”.

The meeting was called off when Mr Spillman refused to leave when the security guard was called.

“They said I was disruptive and should leave the room,” said Mr Spillman.

“They went into another room without us and the vice-chairman – they were like a rogue cabal.

“They said I couldn’t come in and I felt like I was having a kind of sit-in against injustice.

“I refused to go with the security guard and I said ‘call the police and I will leave with them’.

“I would say I carried myself with dignity – at no point did I become aggressive.”

Mr Spillman later reported the alleged comments to the police.

But Rita Walsh, one of the founding members when the group was set up in 2005, said Mr Spillman had been out of order.

And the 73-year-old said members were left so afraid following the row that she has requested – and been granted – a police presence at their next meeting on Monday. “It is horrendous,” she said. “We have had to cancel meetings. In August we had a committee meeting and it all exploded. We had to move and went into another room. In the end we got security involved – people were in pieces it was that bad.”

She said the meeting was eventually called off because of the row and no official meetings have taken place since.

She said other meetings, at which it is claimed Mr Spillman was voted in as chairman, were not official Senior Voice Forum meetings.

Ms Walsh accused the

rival group of trying to stage a takeover and said she has looked into freezing the

forum’s bank account as a precaution.

Group member Terry Bennett said: “They asked me to go to the last meeting on Whitegate Drive because of the problems at the previous meetings.

“It’s frightening for some of the older people – some people there got very angry and very aggressive.”

Treasurer Alec Fogg said he had been “caught in the middle” of the row after trying to mediate.

He said the offending comment – which had been made to him – was just “a bit of banter”.

He said: “This has blown out of all proportion – it’s a shambles really.”

Lancashire Police confirmed it had received a report relating to a statement made at one of the group’s meetings. A spokesman said: “We have visited the parties involved. It is under investigation.”

The Senior Voice Forum was set up to campaign on local issues for Blackpool’s older people. Anyone over the age of 50 can apply to join.