Council chiefs' anger over Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits show's 'unfair portrayal of Hartlepool'

Council chiefs plan to write to makes of Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits.
Council chiefs plan to write to makes of Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits.

Hartlepool Borough Council chiefs have expressed their anger of over the portrayal of the town in the Skint Britain: Friends Without benefits show on Channel 4.

The three-part series takes a look at how people in the town have been affected by the Government’s new Universal Credit system, which replaces six other benefits with a single monthly payment for people out of work or on a low income.

Gill Alexander, the chief executive of Hartlepool Borough Council, and council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.

Gill Alexander, the chief executive of Hartlepool Borough Council, and council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.

Hartlepool was one of the pilot areas for the roll-out of the new system and the new show aims to portray the stark realities of Universal Credit on peoples’ lives.

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Gill Alexander, the chief executive of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: "I'm hugely disappointed by the unfair portrayal of Hartlepool in last night's Channel 4 documentary, and I know that there has been a groundswell of anger across the town about the programme.

"The programme seemed to take enjoyment from sensationalising the pain or distress of a small group of people, rather than a genuine exploration of the impact of Universal Credit.

Trevor Pickard and carer Tracy Taylor with their daughter Tamsyn.  Image by Channel 4.

Trevor Pickard and carer Tracy Taylor with their daughter Tamsyn. Image by Channel 4.

"I will be writing to Channel 4 and Blast Films - the company behind the documentary - to express my disappointment and frustration.

"We absolutely appreciate and understand that these are not easy times for many people in Hartlepool, but last night's programme was in no way a balanced exploration of this.

"We were approached by Blast Films to take part in this 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 council, its partners and local community and voluntary groups are working hard to tackle the impact of poverty in the town and to deliver employment and training opportunities and support services.”

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Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “It is a real pity that film and TV companies feel the need to search out ways in which to tell a negative story about Hartlepool.

“I entirely sympathise with those people who were left irritated by last night’s documentary which did not give a fair portrayal of Hartlepool.

“There is a real sense of pride and optimism across our town.

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“The truth is that Hartlepool is a great place to live, learn, work and invest. However, Blast Films - the production company behind this documentary – don’t seem to be interested in portraying anything positive about our town at all.

“Everyone recognises the significant economic challenges faced in Hartlepool, but so much has also been achieved in recent years.

“I think it’s about time someone told the positive story about how the Council and people across Hartlepool are working hard to bring new hope and optimism to the borough.”