A DOCUMENTARY following the lives of North-Easterners grappling with the rollout of Universal Credit has been heavily criticised by a council’s leader and chief executive.

The first episode of Skint Britain: Friends without Benefits aired on Channel 4 on Wednesday night and has since been met with strong condemnation.

The three-part series focuses on Hartlepool and its residents in the benefits system – an area with the highest proportion of out-of-work benefits payments in the UK.

However, a “groundswell of anger” has spread across the town, with many residents upset at how Hartlepool is portrayed in the documentary.

Gill Alexander, chief executive of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: "The programme seemed to take enjoyment from sensationalising the pain or distress of a small group of people, rather than a genuine exploration of the impact of Universal Credit.

"I will be writing to Channel 4 and Blast Films – the company behind the documentary – to express my disappointment and frustration.

"We absolutely appreciate and understand that these are not easy times for many people in Hartlepool, but the programme was in no way a balanced exploration of this.”

The council was approached to take part in the documentary, but declined ahead of filming.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “The truth is that Hartlepool is a great place to live, learn, work and invest.

"However, Blast Films don’t seem to be interested in portraying anything positive about our town at all."