Charity's factory printed porn: Spastics Society investigates 'embarrassing' production of explicit sex magazines

THE SPASTICS SOCIETY yesterday admitted it had no idea that a factory it owned had been printing hard-core pornographic magazines. But the society denied that this oversight and the company's first ever redundancy programme of disabled workers was due to mismanagement.

The Newton Products factory was established 28 years ago in Birmingham to give work to disabled people and make money for the society. But the business, which assembles powered and manual wheelchairs, has made considerable losses over the past three years. Of the 34 redundancies to be made this month out of a workforce of 104, 27 are disabled workers.

The charity's national spokeswoman, Martine Brent, insisted none of the disabled workers were to be made homeless as a result of moving out of a hostel linked to the factory. 'In order to turn the business around it will mean redundancies for some disabled people, which is particularly painful for a charity like us,' she said.

Ms Brent admitted the society was deeply embarrassed when it learnt about the factory printing legal, but explicitly pornographic Dutch magazines. One - Original Bitch - features sado-masochistic and lesbian scenes, and another, Creme Direct Contacts, contains half-dressed women offering sexual services and telephone numbers. 'We are not going to try and defend this. It . . . is very much to be regretted,' Ms Brent said. The charity has launched an investigation.

The society, which has a turnover of more than pounds 70m a year, has also brought in a new general manager, Fred Duffield, at the Birmingham factory to turn the business around. In both 1991 and 1992 it lost pounds 500,000, and last year pounds 600,000.

The former production manager at the factory, Allan Sharp, who was made redundant in January, insists, however, that many of Newton Products' problems were due to mismanagement. 'They were wasting a fantastic amount of money. In one case there was pounds 350,000 worth of scooters stockpiled which they could not shift.'

He added that the company had been paying accountants pounds 135 a day and consultants pounds 200 a day which he described as 'obscene' when the average annual pay of the workforce was pounds 6,300.

Ms Brent admitted the purchase of the scooters was a 'bad purchasing decision'. But Ms Brent blamed the financial problems on tough economic conditions and the outdated wheelchair lines which the factory was finding increasingly difficult to sell.

Elizabeth Lamb, 46, who suffers from cerebral palsy, is to be made redundant after working at the factory for 27 years. She and her disabled husband, Terry, who is to keep his job at Newton Products, will be pounds 300 worse off a month. 'I am very bitter about it and very angry. We shall have to manage, but it's going to be very hard.'

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