Talks under way after 'drugs raid' at pensioners' club

Pam Hollis, Upper Gornal Pensioners Club chairperson, Janet Nicklin, secretary and trustee and Pauline Millward, treasurer.
-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)

Talks have begun to secure the future of a pensioners’ club after Dudley Council workers broke in to clear out the building. The shocking incident, which has been described as ‘like a drugs raid’ took place on June 8 at Upper Gornal Pensioners’ Club on Kent Street in a dispute over repair costs.

Centre users were outraged by the tactics and used their cars to prevent workers’ leaving the site. Club chairperson, Pam Hollis, said: “They had crowbarred the doors open and crowbarred curtain rails off the walls.

“They pulled curtain rails down, opened up private lockers and took the door off another one. “Another ten minutes and the boiler and copper piping would have been gone.”

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After blocking the exit pensioners threatened to go to the press which prompted the workers to put the items they had removed back in the building. Pam said: “They knew I was livid, they said it was going to landfill then they just dumped it all.”

The row broke out after the council, which says it owns the land, concluded the building needs repairs worth £100,000. The authority said it does not have the funds to pay for the repairs so the building has to close.

The pensioners dispute the council’s ownership and say they were given the land for the centre in 1952 and raised cash for the building work. They also question the size of repair bill, which relates to suspected damage to foundations caused by a leaking toilet.

Pam said: “We have had a crack in the ceiling for 15 years, it’s never moved – I’d like to see the quote they have had.” The pensioners vowed to fight to save their club and have the support of community leaders.

Former local councillor Mark Westwood said: “People were crying, it is totally wrong the way things have been done. “It’s almost like a drugs raid, these people are heartbroken.”

Cllr Adam Aston added: “It has had a devastating effect on older members of the community, to be treated like this by a local authority is really disappointing.” Helen Martin, Dudley Council’s director of regeneration and enterprise, said: “We have recently met with members of the club and local councillors to discuss the future of the Upper Gornal Pensioners’ Centre.

“Following that meeting, we have reviewed options for the site, which local councillors are due to discuss with members of the club in order to agree a way forward.” The pensioners remain upset by the way the council dealt with the issue and say they have not had an apology for the council’s ‘heavy-handed’ tactics. However there is optimism a deal may be on the horizon.

Cllr Shaun Keasey said: “Discussions have taken place between the council and representatives of the centre and hopefully there will be movement towards a positive outcome.”

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