Dorset Enterprises disability factory set to close
A factory which employs people with disabilities is to close following a council decision to withdraw funding.
Twenty three people will be made redundant when Dorset Enterprises, which makes deckchairs and garden furniture in Bournemouth, closes.
The Conservative-led council said the decision was "regrettable" but it could no longer subsidise the company which is trading at a loss.
Workers protested outside Bournemouth Town Hall during the council meeting.
Dorset Enterprises was founded in 1914 by a Bournemouth councillor to provide work for injured servicemen returning from World War I.
Nineteen people with a range of disabilities work at the plant on Elliot Road.
Employee Jenny Sprott, who has worked at the factory for 34 years, said: "I'm a slow learner and would find it hard to do something else and keep up the pace. I just can't keep up sometimes."
The company's turnover has halved over the past five years, partly due to cheaper overseas competition.
Trade unions said the council could have done more to promote Dorset Enterprises.
Dave Higgins, of Unison, said: "They [Dorset Enterprises] continue to make great things, if they had the right support and a sales and marketing manager to tell people about what they can do, they'd be able to make that profit again."
The council said it could no longer afford to pay a subsidy of about £500,000 each year to the company.
Blair Crawford, cabinet member for adult social care, said: "These are difficult and challenging times. It's a case of balancing options but there is no way of avoiding pain."
He said the council would look for partners to take the factory on and would support those being made redundant as they attempted to find alternative employment.