First Choice has confirmed its Kilmarnock call centre
will close with the loss of up to 180 jobs – creating a
political row in the process.

The company received a £250,000 Scottish Enterprise
government grant to set up the centre in 1999 under a scheme to
help areas in economic need.

Under the deal, First Choice did not have to pay back the grant
if the centre was open in May this year – the consultation
ends in June.

Scottish Enterprise hinted bosses could be called to justify
their actions or pay back some of the funding. A spokesman said:
“As it stands, the conditions will be met but we’re seeking a
meeting to discuss implications and the grant.”

First Choice distribution managing director John Wimbleton
delivered the news to staff on Tuesday.

Employees are entering a 90-day consultation, but those who find
a job elsewhere will not receive redundancy.

One Kilmarnock employee branded the company “pathetic” for its
treatment of staff. Those working when Wimbleton announced the
closure were left to tell colleagues at home by telephone, she
said.

“This company has no idea how to deal with loyal staff.
We’ve made huge profits, but they can’t even call a
mass meeting to tell us we’re closing. It’s pathetic
and cowardly.”

A First Choice spokeswoman said: “We do want to retain as many
people as possible and have got shops in the area.”

First Choice is consolidating call-centre staff at its
Manchester and Crawley offices.