'TOWIE' bosses have been criticised and accused of acting "irresponsibly" after axing 10 cast members from the programme.

Pete Wicks has been saved from the axe

Pete Wicks has been saved from the axe

Last month it was revealed that the ITVBe show - which launched in October 2010 - was facing a major shake-up and moving on "with a smaller group of cast members" but the departing stars have been left heartbroken with the axe.

A talent management source told MailOnline: "It has been a challenging two years for most people financially, this was their career and 'TOWIE' effectively sacked a bunch of youngsters from their jobs and for what reason?

"There was no problem with anyone on the show, they could have given them another six months or the chance to look for other opportunities, but to just fire them all overnight was irresponsible.

"The cast believed they were meeting producers for a catch-up ahead of filming resuming in August, so everyone was ready and excited with their updates – but without warning they were booted off the show."

One unnamed axed cast-member compared the mass-firing to a "massacre".

They said: "Everyone was dressed up ready to meet the new executives to talk about their storylines because that's what we were told but it turned out to be a completely different conversation.

"The entire cast were phoning each other asking 'am I sacked? Am I sacked?' The way it was done, they showed no remorse and didn't take our feelings into account. It was brutal, like a massacre. Some people were really upset and crying.

"Producers recruited a load of youngsters and thought they were going to make it work but now they've chucked them all off. One newbie was told 'you're going to be star' and was reassured they'd be on the next series, but it was all short-lived."

Amy Childs, Amber Turner, Pete Wicks, James Lock and Chloe Sims - as well as her sisters Demi, Frankie and Gatsby - are among the stars who have been saved.

A spokesperson for 'The Only Way Has Essex' has defended the changes to the reality show's line-up and insisted that everything is being done to ensure the departing members have the support they need.

The statement released to BANG Showbiz read: "As always the welfare of past and present 'TOWIE' cast is of paramount importance to us and we continue to offer our robust welfare and psychological support. In addition to this, we are providing access to a number of advisory services to offer further support including; financial management training, social media management, career advice and life coaching."