A “TRASHY” television programme threatens to exploit people in Stockton, both the town’s MPs has warned.

The makers of Channel 4’s controversial Benefits Street programme, Love Productions, have been trying to persuade residents of Dixon Street in central Stockton to take part.

Stockton South MP James Wharton has written a letter to programme makers urging them not to choose Stockton – and Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has written to residents saying they would be “exploited” by TV crews.

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Conservative Mr Wharton said the area was being actively considered for the next episode of the programme.

“This is the last thing we need,” he said. “I am proud of our town. I was born and raised in Stockton and I do not want its reputation damaged by a trashy TV programme.

“Stockton is doing well, unemployment is falling, new companies are opening up and our town is headed in the right direction. This sort of cheap TV could undermine that and damage the reputation of our community.”

“Benefits Street focuses on a minority of people and presents them in the worst possible light.

“As things get better we do not want to be misrepresented and to have the hard work of so many in our community undermined.”

Mr Wharton has written to Love Productions saying he was “concerned that your programme will further perpetuate some of the unjustified, negative stereotypes often attributed to our area, by those who have no knowledge of it”.

Labour MP Mr Cunningham posted letters through all residents’ doors, saying: “Anyone who saw any of the first series will have seen how the programme makers aim to exploit people, their families and community and the problems and challenges they face - just to entertain other people.

“I think it will be largely negative with people in the area stigmatised.”

Last week residents in Brambles Farm and North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, were reportedly offered money and visited by programme makers.

The first series of Benefits Street, filmed in Birmingham, saw nearly 2,000 complaints to Ofcom, but it gave Channel 4 the highest viewing figures since 2012 and the rights for the show were sold across the world.

The programme makers were unavailable for comment last night.