Nearly 160 jobs are to be axed following the shock announcement last Wednesday that the Paynes sweet factory is to close.

Over the next 15 months the sweet factory on Croydon Road will shut down moving production to more modern premises in Leicester.

The move has stunned workers and residents as a factory has been in Croydon for the past 80 years. Workers are said to be in shock despite Northern Foods' offer of alternative work within the group and help finding new jobs.

One employee, leaving the factory after hearing the news on March 14, said: “It is a real shock. I am angry but I don't think it has sunk in yet. I knew it was coming ever since the firm changed hands. It was to be expected. There are jobs in Leicester if we want them but how can we just move there?”

The move depends on a deal Northern Foods is setting up with Nestle UK to buy the Leicester factory, but that is likely to be confirmed in the next four weeks.

Paynes, a chocolate and sugar confectionery business, was established in 1896 but was bought by Northern Foods in the summer of 1998. Its most popular products are Poppets, Just Brazil chocolates and Lift instant lemon tea. A Northern Foods spokesman said the company regretted having to close the site but it was necessary to ensure the future growth of Paynes.

He said: “We have given 15 months' notice of our intentions in order to ensure we are able to help employees either relocate to other Northern Foods' sites or find alternative employment in the locality.

“We will do everything we can to minimise any impact on those affected by these proposals. This decision in no way reflects on the commitment and loyalty of employees.” He added: “For the same reason George Payne & Company moved out of the East End of London in the 1930s, we now have to protect the business by relocating to a site which offers more modern manufacturing facilities and the potential for significant growth.”

Croydon Councillor, Charlie Burling, whose Waddon ward includes the factory said: “It must be a terrible blow to people who have worked there all their lives. It will be a sad loss as it has been part of the community and a significant employer in the area for as long as I can remember.

“It is sad but perhaps a few years ago it would have been devastating but as the economy is now in good shape I am certain people can get some good jobs.”

MP Richard Ottaway said: “It is a fiercely competitive world out there now and Paynes has to compete against cheap

imported confectionery.”

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