Bingo war divides sheltered housing complex

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The letter, if anything, has had the opposite effect and now the entire complex is up in arms.

Problems started when Jean Walton, 65, moved in and began hosting regular bingo sessions in the common room. Her crime was not the bingo, but that she invited outsiders in in the form of family and friends.

Some of the residents, fiercely protective of their room, were infuriated, and sought redress through official channels. A series of ever more lurid accusations followed.

Complaints included reports of partying until 2am, loud music being played and posters at local shops advertising the bingo being torn down.

Miss Walton, who moved in in April, remains defiant and said she will not be intimidated. 'Our bingo will carry on and it will not stop me. I don’t want to vegetate for the rest of my life – we have a room and we should use it.

“They are closing all of our elderly day centres around here and we’ve got a perfectly good room to use for activities and fun.”

She said the problems started after a housewarming party she hosted on July 4th, which she claimed finished just after 11pm, although others have suggested much later, adding: 'I wish to God I never moved here and that I never threw that party.”

Her friend and fellow bingo organiser, Brenda Gough, 66, also claims to have found herself on the end of malicious gossip by some of those seeking to have their activities shut down.

Miss Gough, who has lived at Ash Grove, in Great Barr, for 15 years, said she has been accused of bringing men home for sex, which she denies, branding the complainants 'childish' and 'pathetic'.

With residents as old as 90, opponents of Miss Gough and Miss Walton say the peace and tranquility of the complex are of the highest importance. There is also increased concerns about crime if strangers are allowed in and out of the common room and the complex.

Such are the growing hostilities that Jacqueline Carbado, Birmingham City Council's assistant housing officer, wrote to all residents reminding them of their tenancy responsibilities.

Her letter states that 'several residents have complained of harassment, which consists of intimidation, bullying and spreading malicious rumours' and warns of direct action should the bad behaviour continue.

Residents have called for the letter to be formally withdrawn and are trying to gather a committee to sort the problems out.

June Hill,62, a former warden at the housing scheme, said: 'This has never happened in the 16 years we have lived in the community ' it's a huge stress.'

Mr Hill, 62, added: 'The outsiders coming for the bingo fill the road full of cars and there’s no room for emergency vehicles.

“We’ve had burglaries and we don’t need strangers down here.'

Birmingham Cllr Keith Linnecor said the council's actions were over the top and said: 'The council should withdraw these letters and mount a full investigation. This is a private estate and I am sure they are not allowed to use the common room for public events.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said: 'We takes matters of anti social behaviour seriously and following a number of complaints from residents at the Ash Grove Warden Scheme, which we are currently investigating, we felt it was necessary to remind all residents that abusive, threatening or intimidating behaviour towards their neighbours would not be tolerated.

'We have not threatened any of our residents with an ASBO, but we accept that the letter may be regarded as over zealous. We did not intend to cause our residents any upset or concern and we are sorry if we have. We remain committed to protecting their safety.

'Local housing staff are currently working with residents to find a solution to the issues they face.'

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