A STORM is brewing in a courtroom cafeteria where the tempers of the elderly tea ladies are about to boil over.
The women all work for free at Redbridge Magistrates Court on behalf of Redbridge Mencap which is based in Wanstead.
But they say the charity no longer tells them what the money they raise is spent on and takes the work they do for granted.
Tea lady Barbara Gardner, 62, of Woodford Avenue in Gants Hill, said: “The year before last Mencap appointed these new trustees.
“Straight away they told us all we had to be CRB checked.
“There was no subtlety about it, just demands to ladies as old as 89 to provide bank details and all sorts.
“They have imposed new menus on us without discussing it and we don't have enough people or time to make the things they want us to make.
“Bulk orders are placed with them, but they always seem reluctant to take the order.”
Volunteer numbers have dwindled from 25 a few years ago to just nine stalwarts who do their best to staff the canteen a few days a week.
Iris Allison, 84, gets up at 6am three days a week to travel from her home in Romford to brew up at the court.
“Most of the people we get in here are lovely, even the baddies,” she said.
“But Mencap doesn’t do anything to help us recruit new volunteers and they don’t seem to take any interest in what we do.
"I love it here, but I almost left a few months ago because our fridges were empty and nobody at Redbridge Mencap would answer my phone calls and help."
Karen Fineberg, the chairwoman of Redbridge Mencap, said she was upset to hear the women were unhappy.
“We are a small charity and we can’t be there all the time, but they have our phone number and we are always happy to talk with them,” she said.
“We do value what they do and I have told them so many times.
“We couldn’t survive without them and it’s upsetting to hear they aren’t happy.”
She added that a meeting had been scheduled between Redbridge Mencap and the tea ladies for November 26.