A LAST-ditch stand by disabled workers failed to save the Dorset Enterprises factory from the axe.

Factory workers and union members braved the cold outside Bournemouth Town Hall to try and persuade councillors to keep the West Howe factory open.

But their efforts were unsuccessful and cabinet members unanimously agreed to shut the factory and make all 23 workers redundant on March 31.

Councillors said they could no longer continue to subsidise the factory, which is currently running at a loss of more than £400,000 a year, but said they hoped to find a partner organisation which would continue to employ disabled people on the Elliott Road site.

Cllr Blair Crawford, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “I'm sorry about the pain but how can we justify subsidy of that amount when we are required to meet the needs of other people in the borough with substantial and critical needs?

“I believe we can move to a model that can provide more opportunities for people with disabilities.”

His words were echoed by council leader Cllr John Beesley, who said: “It wouldn't be true for anybody to leave here today believing the council has made a decision and is now washing its hands of the process - nothing could be further from the truth.”

But disappointed workers and their families were far from reassured. Jean Girling, whose deaf and autistic son has worked there for 16 years, said: “It's disgusting. I feel the council has got no social conscience at all.

“That factory has been allowed to become non-profit making. I feel Bournemouth council should take responsibility. They've allowed this situation to develop yet they waste money on so many other things, like the surf reef, Imax and BIC.”

And Jenny Scott, who has worked there for 34 years, said: “I'm a bit disappointed, I will miss my friends. I would like to think I can do something else but I just don't know what yet.”

Labour Cllr Dennis Gritt said: “It's a disgraceful way to treat employees with difficulties. We should be supporting them, not sacking them. They are easy targets.”