Worthing's 70-year-old fitness instructor wins fight for job

SACKED popmobility pensioner Celia Powis is ecstatic after winning her fight to continue leading keep-fit classes at Worthing Leisure Centre.

Ultra-fit Celia, of The Boulevard, Worthing, was shocked when the council told her she was too old to continue her musical move-abouts – especially when they delivered the job bombshell the day before her 70th birthday.

But Celia appealed against the axe, and a hearing on Tuesday, March 18 reversed the sacking decision.

A delighted Celia said after the two-hour appeal sitting: "I want to thank the council for an excellent hearing.

"They were completely fair and professional, and we were delighted with the outcome. Worthing is a wonderful place."

It means that Celia can continue running her Tuesday and Sunday council-backed classes at the Leisure Centre until January 31, 2009.

If she wishes to continue teaching after that date, then the position will be reviewed.

Tim Everett, the council's director of services, who conducted the appeal, said: "I am pleased we reached agreement on the way forward.

"As a council, we aim to be fair with all our staff – indeed, Celia isn't our oldest employee.

"But we do have to have regard to the policies in place regarding employing people beyond the normal retirement age of 65."

Celia has been running her "Popmo" classes at the centre for more than 30 years.

The age of her class members ranges from young students to pensioners, and even her 68-year-old husband, Jack, attends classes.

"He supports me all the time," said Celia.

"We have some men coming to the sessions, but not enough! We get 40 to 50 members on Tuesdays, and about 20 on Sundays.

"It is different to other forms of keep-fit teaching, with different forms of music," she said.

Celia recalled celebrations at the centre in advance of her 70th birthday, which fell on January 31.

When she was called in to see her managers on January 30, she thought further congratulations and a card might be forthcoming.

"But I was told, 'We have decided it is time for you to leave'. I was devastated," she said.

Celia, however, is a long way from being the council's oldest employee.

There is an 81-year-old coach employed at the Leisure Centre, a 73-year-old coach at the Aquarena, and other employees in their 70s.

What do you think?

Should people be forced to retire at 60 or 65?

When do you expect to retire?

Would you go on beyond 65?

Share your views, comment below or:

Email: letters@worthingherald.co.uk

Write to: Worthing Herald, Cannon House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, BN11 1NA.

Contact us online: www.worthingherald.co.uk/contactus.aspx

Text us: WHNEWS (space) and any other details to 84070.

Comments must be no more than 160 words and MUST include your name.