Bid to beat `Mersey Blues'

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BUSINESS leaders on Merseyside will this week launch a pounds 500,000 campaign aimed at countering the negative image of the area portrayed in the BBC television series Mersey Blues, writes Michael Harrison.

Trailers for the fly-on-the wall programme about the Merseyside police claiming that "crime is a career choice" in Liverpool have provoked outrage in the local business community.

Christopher Gibaud, chief executive of the Mersey Partnership, said that the series, filmed over the last four years, had undermined efforts to attract new businesses into the area and create more jobs. "By giving an image of Liverpool as a crime-ridden city with high unemployment and few opportunities, this documentary is painting a picture that is completely at odds with reality," he added.

The campaign, supported by local businesses and inward investment agencies, will highlight the "lifestyle" attractions of relocating to Merseyside such as its wide choice of golf courses and musical and sporting heritage. A new website about Merseyside is also being launched and there will be fact sheets, competitions and a local and national advertising campaign.

Mr Gibaud claimed that last year Merseyside bucked the trend with a series of major inward investments, including Ford's decision to produce the X400 "baby Jaguar" at Halewood and six new call centres creating 3,000 jobs.

The Mersey Partnership has written to the BBC but has not yet had a reply. Mr Gibaud said that since the series began, one or two potential investors had begun to "wobble".