DUDLEY borough bosses have been quick to defend the decision to order Black Country flags from Taiwan.

It follows mounting criticism that the specially commissioned flags should have been sourced from a Black Country outlet.

The red, black and white flag was designed by Stourbridge schoolgirl Gracie Shepherd and conceived to to boost the area's image and celebrate its industrial and cultural heritage.

It was flown on official buildings during Black Country Day last month and featured prominently at the Black Country Festival.

Since then, the flag has been featured all over the world but the revelation it was manufactured more than 6,000 miles away has dismayed many.

Dudley South MP Chris Kelly said: " These flags could - and should - be made in the UK and I'd like to know who was responsible for ordering them.

"There's no excuse as the first Black Country Day took place last year, so there's been plenty of time to source a local Black Country supplier and it's a great pity we couldn't have done that."

But Councillor Pete Lowe, deputy leader of Dudley Council, hit back this week - claiming it wasn't the council's position to order the flags but the Black Country Festival group's.

He confirmed: "We tried to source some local flag makers but there was no-one available who could supply the quantity which we wanted.

"We had to go to Taiwan because we couldn't find anyone locally who made the lightweight flag. It certainly wasn't for the want of trying.

" At least we were able to make sure the flag went on sale at local outlets like the Black Country Living Museum and the Red House Glass Cone in Wordsley."

The shape of the historic cone is depicted along with links of heavy industrial chain on the 5ft by 3ft flags, which went on sale for £4.99 each.

The supplier is believed to have been recommended to Dudley Council by the Black Country Living Museum where a spokesman said: "We launched the competition to design the flag, but we were not involved with the production of the flag or the subsequent merchandise.

"The museum endeavours to source the products it sells locally."

Cllr Lowe added: "Black Country Day was a phenomenal success and it's a shame that some people are now trying to take a negative stance on it."

Black Country Gaz, aka Garry Sawes - a member of the Black Country Festival group, said: "Obviously we would have liked to buy the flags off a Black Country firm had that been feasible and we did try to locate a local firm who made flags, but we couldn't find one. Eventually we had to go to a supplier. It wasn't down to the council to supply the flags.

"It's just a sad fact of life and we need to start making things again.

"If anybody knows of a local company that could help - then we'd like them to get in touch."