Council chiefs are set to lead a campaign aimed to combat the ‘unfair’ portrayal of Hartlepool in the Skint Britain TV documentary show.
The new Love Hartlepool campaign will aim to ‘sing the town’s praises and promote its successes far and wide’ following a backlash over the Channel 4 Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits programme which was filmed in the town.
Cleveland Police have already vowed to investigate the programme, which featured people resorting to selling stolen goods, searching derelict property for scrap metal and shoplifting, as well as going out to commit robberies armed with a knife and also people carrying guns.
The controversial Channel 4 documentary, aimed at showing how people are being hit by Universal Credit, came to an end last week.
From the onset, the show attracted anger from Mail readers, Hartlepool MP Mike Hill and Hartlepool Borough Council chief executive Gill Alexander who has written to Channel 4 and showmakers Blast Films to express her ‘disappointment and frustration’ at the programme.
Now to combat the negative portrayal of the town the campaign is being launched to highlight the things that make Hartlepool standout as a great place to live, work and visit.
Ms Alexander said: “Like so many people across the town, I’ve been hugely disappointed by the unfair portrayal of Hartlepool in Skint Britain.
“As I’ve said previously, the programme seemed to take enjoyment from sensationalising the pain or distress of a small group of people, rather than be a genuine exploration of the impact of Universal Credit.
“I have written to Channel 4 and Blast Films - the company behind the documentary - to express my disappointment and frustration.
“However, if there has been one positive to Skint Britain, it has really galvanised so many people across the town.
“Many people have told me how angry they are at the portrayal of Hartlepool and some of the people who participated in the programme have even contacted me to say that they really wish they hadn’t and that they feel very let down and betrayed by the programme makers.
“We’re now looking forward to launching a Love Hartlepool project involving the council and a host of local organisations and residents - all working together for the good of the town.
“The campaign will be about singing the town’s praises and promoting its successes far and wide and I believe each and every one of us has a role to play to show the world how we all Love Hartlepool.”
Ms Alexander previously said the council was approached by Blast Films to take part in the programme, ‘but declined when it became clear that they were intent on taking a voyeuristic approach rather than a proper exploration of the impact of Universal Credit’.
The Channel 4 show was filmed in Hartlepool as it was one of the pilot areas for the roll-out of the Government’s new benefits system.
Universal Credit, which is aimed at getting people on benefits back to work, replaces six other benefits with a single monthly payment for people out of work or on a low income.
Town MP Mr Hill said the show did not ‘do genuine people justice’.
Mr Hill added: “It fails to focus on the true impact of Universal Credit as felt by the hundreds and hundreds of people in my constituency. People who are genuinely suffering in silence, people at food banks, people who are having disability benefits taken off them.
“The impact Universal Credit is having on people in the town just is not coming through in a way that properly demonstrates the true impact of things like sanctions and underpayments, having to access food banks.
“It doesn’t show any of that and it doesn’t show the kind of support and community support that is available for these people or what people do on a daily basis to support people in need.”