BUSINESS leaders and council bosses have lined up to slam a Sky News report on the state of Burnley’s economy as “a hatchet job”.
The report, which went out to coincide with the release of latest unemployment figures nationally, made the wild claim that Burnley was “dragging the economy down”.
But leading business figures and council officials, who were consulted by Sky, say the report had an agenda and deliberately ignored positive developments in the town.
Tony Blair’s former director of communications, Alastair Campbell, who is due to speak at a Burnley Bondholders event today, said: “It seems we’ve got a long way to go before the caricatures and cliches about Burnley disappear from the national conscience.
“It was a pretty one-sided report that ignored all the good things happening in the town. Every time this happens, though, I am sure it gives an extra impetus to business people in the town to go out and prove people wrong. I know there is a real determination among the Bondholders to do this.”
Sky’s business correspondent, Alistair Bunkall, described the town centre as “dead” and went on to add “even those shops left open are virtually empty”.
Recruitment specialist Donnie Doran, who spoke to Sky at his Neville Gee office, slammed the report as “an abuse of trust”.
He said: “The reporter chose to ignore what we told him. It was a pretty tacky piece of journalism. In the last 12 months we have had our best year ever.” Mr Doran said that, in the last 12 months, his company has placed 118 people in full-time work in Burnley, ranging from administration to directorship jobs.
Unemployment figures, released on Wednesday, put Burnley statistics at 5.1% of those available to work being jobless, against the regional figure of 4.4%.
Burnley Council chief executive Steve Rumbelow condemned the report as “a hatchet job”. He said: “It is obvious Sky came wanting to create a particular story. The report made no reference to the positive developments in the pipeline, of which there are many, and instead focused on the town’s joblessnes. They even set up their camera outside the Jobcentre and interviewed people as they were coming out.
“Burnley does have issues and has had for many years but I truly believe the gaps that existed between us and other towns are narrowing.”
Mr Rumbelow pointed to the planned reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve rail link, Burnley Bridge Business Park, the University Technical College and redevelopment of the Weavers’ Triangle as improvements that will boost the local economy.
In recent years, the town has seen the creation of its first university campus, several new high schools built and the arrival of the country’s first UCFB of Football Business. In retail, the owners of Charter Walk Shopping Centre, Addington Capital, have announced the redevelopment of the centre, and high street giant NEXT is redeveloping the former TK Maxx building to create a much larger store.
Aerospace giant Aircelle recently announced it had been successful in a bid to create a Supplier Village on the former Michelin site in Burnley, that will allow it to continue to grow.