Covid fears over Cranswick workers’ living conditions raised weeks before outbreak

Breckland Council held a meeting in September about the living conditions in Watton of Cranswick wor

Breckland Council held a meeting in September about the living conditions in Watton of Cranswick workers. Picture: Marc Betts - Credit: Archant

Fears about Cranswick workers living in crowded homes in Watton were raised with authorities in September - weeks before the pork factory became the centre of Norfolk’s biggest Covid-19 outbreak.

Cranswick Country Food in Watton has confirmed 140 members of staff have tested positive for coronav

Cranswick Country Food in Watton has confirmed 140 members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Picture: Tom Chapman - Credit: Archant

In a letter to Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman at the start of October, Breckland Council’s chief executive Anna Graves said the council’s housing team was investigating properties where “large numbers” of staff were living, amid concerns it could lead to the virus spreading.

On September 24 the council held a meeting with police, Cranswick and an employment agency about workers’ living conditions.

It came after concerns were raised by a Watton resident about workers sleeping rough and in cramped homes of multiple occupation.

Ms Graves wrote: “It was a very productive meeting where a number of actions were agreed to help begin to tackle the issues.”

Watton councillor Keith Gilbert said cramped living conditions had long been an issue for Cranswick

Watton councillor Keith Gilbert said cramped living conditions had long been an issue for Cranswick workers. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

We have asked the council what those actions were, after at least 140 Cranswick workers tested positive.Ms Graves also said in the October letter there would be further meetings to help reduce “these issues in and around Watton”.


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Independent councillor Keith Gilbert said: “We do have an issue with houses of multiple occupation in Watton. It really doesn’t help the situation.

“It is very difficult for people living in these conditions to self isolate. I feel extremely sorry for them.”

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A Cranswick spokesman said: “Cranswick has always abided by the code of conduct set by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Signs on Watton High street. Pictures: ARCHANT

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Signs on Watton High street. Pictures: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

“In so doing, the business ensures the safety and welfare of all of its employees, verifying the address and living arrangements for each individual who they employ and this is a necessary contractual requirement for the business.”

The letter also revealed concerns from the council that Cranswick may not hold the addresses of all its staff for contact tracing in the event of an outbreak, as at least two were reportedly sleeping rough.

However, Norfolk County Council’s public health team, which is currently contact tracing Cranswick workers, said this had not been an issue during the current outbreak.

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Signs at Befred on Watton High street. Picture

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Signs at Befred on Watton High street. Pictures: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Sign on Watton High street. Pictures: ARCHANT

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Sign on Watton High street. Pictures: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Pictures: ARCHANT

Coronavirus outbreak at Cranswick factory in Watton. Pictures: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

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