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MP Gordon Birtwistle slams BBC documentary for being ‘anti-Burnley’
11:00am Saturday 8th February 2014 in News
BURNLEY’S MP has slammed a fly-on-the-wall documentary which highlighted the town’s proliferation of pound shops.
Pound Shop Wars focused on the competition between three discount retailers at Charter Walk Shopping Centre.
But Gordon Birtwistle said the BBC, which aired the programme on Thursday, was ‘anti-Burnley’.
Actress Caroline Aherne narrated the show, which followed Poundworld’s chief executive Chris Edwards as the company launched a £1 bra.
Several scenes concentrated on issues at Poundworld’s Burnley store, including charismatic deputy manager Ian Gilbert.
But Mr Birtwistle said he was disappointed at how the show, the first of four episodes, depicted the town which was last year named as the most enterprising in the UK.
He said: “The BBC are anti-Burnley, so if the BBC was showing a programme about Burnley I would anticipate it would not be good. I told them about all the major improvements the town has made and they didn’t want to know.
“I tell them about our enterprise award, the new urgent care centre, the investment for our business parks and they are not interested. I proposed a real programme about real apprentices and they ignored that too.
“Whatever the BBC does, I treat with the contempt it deserves.
“If people don’t wish to use pound shops they won’t survive. If they do use them, they will. They create employment and fill units that would otherwise be empty.
“It does not surprise me in the slightest. Maybe the chief executive of the BBC had a bad pint in Burnley once.”
At one point in the programme, Miss Aherne explained to viewers how the competition in Charter Walk between Poundworld, Poundland and 99p Stores had led to some jobs being lost.
She said: “In Burnley, they’re right next door. It’s not just 99p Stores they’re fighting – Poundland’s also in the same shopping centre. As competition has grown, staff numbers have been cut.”
Mr Gilbert, who has worked at the store since it opened in August 2012, told the programme: “Basically when we first opened it was a blank chequebook. We had 20 or 30 staff working doing up to 40 hours a week but obviously we can’t sustain that.”
He added: “If we haven’t got the right offers and the right range at the right time, where we’re situated, the customers can just turn around, walk out, and go elsewhere.
“It is a cut-throat business out there. We are, I suppose, pirates on the high sea.”
And manager Geoff Heathcote said: “Nobody can afford to lose any business whatsoever and that’s why we work so hard. We’ve got to do all we can to survive.”
Brian Hobbs, president of Burnley's Chamber of Trade, said he took no issue with the programme.
He said: “It’s a successful business offering in the town. Pound shops are a big part of business in this town and if they are successful then why not highlight that?”
Chris Gribben, centre manager at Charter Walk, said the documentary was filmed over a number of months last year.
He said: “Obviously one of the reasons the film-makers chose Charter Walk was because Poundworld and 99p Stores are both here and adjacent to each other.”
Reaction to the show on social media was mixed.
Becky Birchall, from Burnley, said sarcastically: “Burnley on TV for having loads of pound stores...fantastic,” while Keiran James said: “Trashy Pound Wars programme on BBC, of course it's in Burnley.”
But Julie Knight said: “Loving the assistant manager at the Burnley Poundworld store - cracking!” and Jenny Couch added: “Poundworld programme...hilarious! Gotta love Burnley!”
No-one from the BBC was available to comment yesterday.
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