Mobile phone giant Vodafone is closing its call centre in Birmingham - putting 650 jobs at risk.

The company yesterday confirmed the worst fears of employees and union officials after it announced the Brindleyplace centre will close in February, when work will be transferred to sites in Warrington and Stoke-on-Trent.

The decision followed a detailed review which looked at a number of factors including location costs, site efficiencies and a new customer service model.

The company's statement said: "These proposals will result in approximately 650 roles being put at risk of redundancy at the site. It is planned that 500 of the roles will transfer to other Vodafone customer management centres.

"Additionally there may be roles within other parts of Vodafone that those affected may apply for."

Jane Hext, Vodafone UK's consumer customer management director, added: "Our customers expect the best service at the lowest cost in this very competitive market.

"We are aware of the effect that this decision will have on the team in Birmingham and we will be doing all that we can to work with them in the coming months to help them through this difficult period."

However, union officials reacted angrily to the announcement.

A spokesman for Connect, which represents Vodafone employees, said: "Staff have suspected that the site is likely to close but have been left in the dark about their future.

"Vodafone has a history of poor consultations with employees when introducing change.

"For a communications company, when it comes to talking to staff about changes, Vodafone have been surprisingly silent."

But workers leaving the Brindleyplace centre yesterday afternoon said the news had come as no surprise.

Kalim Ilyas, a network advisor who had worked for the telecommunications company for a year, said rumours had been rife at the call centre about just such an announcement for three months.

The 31-year-old, who lives in the Jewellery Quarter area of the city, said: "Vodafone say they've just made a decision this month but we've been listening to these rumours for the last few months and it's been very, very stressful.

"Rumours have been going round that Vodafone were going to outsource because it was costing too much to be here.

"I'm disgusted. I was hoping to move up the ladder, and progress in this company - but that's been blown out of the water. I've got a mortgage, a son, a wife and I can't move to Stoke.

"It's too far, it's way too far, especially with the ten hour shifts we do in the call centre."

Aman Kang, who is employed in the customer complaints department, said: "We've been treated very badly and it has affected our lives.

"It's very sad and going through application forms again will be hard. There aren't many jobs in Birmingham, what with Rover and everything. There's nothing happening. We know it's going to be really hard to find a job."