Residents of ‘Billionaire’s Row’ are as likely to have alcohol and drug problems as the people who appear on Benefits Street, shadow welfare minister Chris Bryant has claimed.
The Labour MP criticised how residents of James Turner Street in Birmingham are portrayed on the Channel 4 documentary, and compared their behaviour with that of the inhabitants of Bishop’s Avenue in Hampstead Heath, north London, known as ‘Billionaire’s Row’.
Major business leaders, members of the Saudi royal family and the president of Kazakhstan are among those who own homes on the street in the capital where properties can sell for more than £50million.
The programme has been a ratings success for the channel, but has seen its makers accused of putting forward an unbalanced picture of the inhabitants of the Birmingham Street.
Episodes of Benefits Street have shown residents drinking in the daytime, growing cannabis and shoplifting.
But Mr Bryant said during a live TV debate on Monday that ended the series: “I thought to myself, if you went to the richest street in this country, which is Bishop’s Row [sic] in Hampstead, and there’s 99 houses, you’d find they have exactly the same number of people who are drug addicts, alcoholics and have exactly the same problems.”
Mr Bryant added that benefits claimants are not “shoplifting” and want to find work.
“There are 99 houses in that street and you would expect 50 of them would be pensioners.
“We didn't see them in the programme, we just saw the people who were shoplifting,” he said.
42-year-old White Dee, a resident who appeared on the programme, also took part in the debate and accused Channel 4 of manipulating fellow James Turner Street residents.
But Ralph Lee, a Channel 4 producer, denied Ms Dee’s claims and said the scenes on the street where it is claimed 90 percent of residents claim benefits, were “typical” of many areas.
“There are streets like James Turner streets up and down the country,” he said.
Richard McKerrow, the creative director of Love Productions which made the film, said he was “very proud” of the series for bringing “serious issues” to a young audience.