A HEATED meeting was held yesterday over an ongoing row at Swindon homeless charity Threshold Housing Link.

The trustees, led by chairman Trevor Davies, faced a wave of discontent at the forum, held at Voluntary Action Swindon's offices in the town centre.

It had been thought that a resolution would be proposed by a group of concerned members to oust the board.

But only a debate went ahead at the meeting, held to address a series of claims aired by two street outreach workers in the Adver last month.

It is understood several members spoke to address alleged problems with governance, disciplinary procedures and conflicts of interest.

These have been consistently denied by the trustees, operations director Phil Smith and chief executive officer Cher Sawyer-Smith.

Dissenting voices included an NHS worker who clashed with Mr Davies over two donations made to the charity by an individual in one of its ‘move-on’ properties who she described as “vulnerable”. She also took issue with the steps taken to investigate the matter and said: “None of the borough’s clients would have accepted those funds.”

Mr Davies replied by saying the individual was not designated as vulnerable.

Another trustee, David Price, was challenged over an email accidentally sent to member Chris Page which described him as a “pompous arse”.

Asked to apologise, Mr Price blamed Mr Page for sending two prior emails which he said were provocative at a time he was extremely busy working on the dispute.

Later in the meeting, Mr Price said: “I have a problem apologising for something which I felt was a cathartic moment. It was such a release. I don’t know you from Adam, you chose to accuse me of cronyism. The personal side of it was not there.” Mr Page said: “My views were trenchant but they were not abusive.”

Mr Price replied: “I apologise for calling you what I called you. I have no regrets in defending myself.”

Mr Price said he would resign on a show of hands from the members but Mr Davies intervened, saying there would be no resolutions.

Before the meeting one of the two whistleblowers - Tony Niester - stood outside to hand out a leaflet entitled 'A Letter to all Stakeholders'.

The dispute began with Mr Niester and his colleague, James Derieg, being suspended after raising the claims in last month's Adver.

A review of their allegations is being set up by South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, the charity's patron, and Swindon Council.

“One member, who did not want to be named, said: "It was a highly-charged meeting. There were many questions asked by those who support the whistleblowers.

“One member said the workers had been 'scapegoated' and while she did not condone them going public she pointed out they felt they had no other route after long, prolonged attempts to raise their concerns. The executives were on the defensive and a strong rebuttal of all the claims was given by Trevor Davies."

Mr Davies said after the meeting: "The idea was to give people the opportunity to hear the management side which differs from what was put in the newspaper."

He added: "A number of people wanted clarification. What we had agreed was what we'd already arranged for an external person to come in and do a complete a review of all the documents and so on and give us a view on how it's been handled."

Mr Davies added that on legal advice the meeting was held to clear the air and give explanations rather than take a vote on the trustees’ positions.