Police were called to the Hockley Parochial Hall in Flymo Lane earlier this evening after a huge brawl broke out between members of rival Slimming World and Weight Watchers groups.

The trouble started at around 7.30pm when a ‘double-booking error’ meant that both groups arrived for their weekly meeting at the same time, and witnesses reported that a ‘heated exchange of words’ soon escalated into ‘a frightening level of violence and brutality.’ Police managed to get the situation under control by 7.50pm, and 15 slimmers were taken into custody.

Patrick Metabo is the on-site caretaker, and he said: ‘I have never seen scenes like this before in my 45 years at the centre. Both groups of people turned up at the same time after our secretary made an honest mistake, and almost instantly I heard someone call a rival member a ‘blubber-filled w*nker.’

‘There was a little bit of pushing and shoving, with a few of the Slimming World members taunting the Weight Watchers lot about being able to eat unlimited amounts of pasta, and then someone threw the weighing scales straight into a group of people.’

‘Everything went nuts after that, and one Slimmimg World member just called them all ‘point-counting pricks’ and stormed out.’

He added: ‘The ones who weren’t out of breath were going all out for blood. Cops bundled 15 of them into a couple of police vans and sped off.’

This isn’t the first time that rival slimming groups have been involved in angry clashes around Southend. In 2013, a parade crowd control police division from Northern Ireland had to be deployed in Benfleet when a community centre multiplex rented rooms to both Slimmimg World and Weight Watchers on the same night.

When police support was withdrawn from the site in 2014, fighting broke out when an anonymous Weight Watchers member ordered £500 of pizza from a local branch of Dominos for the Slimming World group – the consultant had her franchise withdrawn after further violence erupted over the last Double Decadence with pepperoni and anchovies.