SUNSEEKER'S plans to axe 460 jobs have been described as "devastating for Poole and the local jobs market."

BCP Council leader Vikki Slade said the news is "terrible for the affected families" and voiced fears for the future of suppliers to Poole's biggest private sector employer.

Luxury boat builder Sunseeker International halted production early in the coronavirus lockdown and placed the majority of its staff on furlough.

But now staff have been told a consultation process will get under way on Thursday May 14 to determine the future of a fifth of its workforce.

Cllr Slade told the Daily Echo the news was not entirely unexpected but is still a terrible blow to the town.

She said: "It is not unexpected and it is inevitable that something in the luxury market is going to be the first to be hit.

"It is devastating for Poole and the local jobs market and it is terrible for the affected families - it must be such a worry for all of them."

She said she hopes anyone affected will be able to secure employment elsewhere.

"Fortunately the marine industry is big in this area. The workforce is highly-skilled and those skills are transferable."

Cllr Slade added: "It is not just Sunseeker either - it is the supply chain. There will be a lot of small businesses connected to this."

An email sent to staff on Thursday said: "Looking to the future, and consistent with many other businesses, Sunseeker must now adapt to deliver on its substantial new model development programme and continue to employ as many people as possible, in the local community.

"To achieve this, we must remain competitive and rebalance the business for the next 12 months to match our production output. Regrettably, around 460 employees from across the business could be affected."

Sunseeker employs around 2,600 people in Poole and Portland and recruits a large number of apprentices.

It said it is preparing to reopen full production "imminently."

Chief executive Andrea Frabetti said: "We will be resuming full production over the next few weeks subject to guidance from HM Government. We are in a strong position to resume our substantial new model development programme, manufacturing and deliveries as soon as possible in a safe, controlled manner.

"We are immensely proud of our role both within the local community and in support of British exports; now is the time to redouble our efforts and support the country back to prosperity."