Hopes for better TV view of town

Barry Pilkington on Call the Council
Barry Pilkington on Call the Council

WIGAN town hall bosses will be hoping for a warmer public reception to the local authority’s latest appearance on the small screen than to the last.

They are still smarting after an unprecedented deluge of complaints about ITV’s fly-on-the-wall documentary Don’t Blame the Council.

The aim had been to allow Britain to see Wigan’s laudable Deal project in action; but local viewers took to social media, email, telephone and pen in their droves to condemn the show as mocking and depressingly negative about the borough and its people.

Leader Lord Smith was among the critics saying it had been “deliberately provocative” and edited to focus on only the negative aspects of the work. And former deputy leader John O’Neill said the programme had in 45 minutes undone 20 years of work to convince folk around the rest of the country that Wigan is a fine place in which to live.

But no-one is at least expecting a repeat horror show when Call the Council begins its run on BBC1’ at 11am on Monday.

Camera crews followed staff over a six-month period, as they went about their daily business, but unlike Don’t Blame The Council, which sparked criticism over the authority’s work ethic, the forthcoming BBC series is expected to show in a more balanced and sedate light what the 4,000 workforce does.

The 15-part series follows a range of characters from departments rarely given access to, such as licensing and environmental enforcement as the BBC gets close up to officers as they work through the night to deliver vital services.

Tommy Robinson is a drainage engineer who camera crews followed to a woman with an unwanted bathroom buddy – a rat. He stepped in to assess where it was finding its way into her home through a cracked pipe and saw him squeeze into a drain to fix the problem.

The 49-year-old from Springfield, who was also featured on Don’t Blame The Council, said: “It was a bit surreal seeing myself on TV. I didn’t know what to expect but was happy to finally see myself on Call The Council.

“At first I was a bit hesitant about allowing cameras to follow me, but I thought what the heck. I was a bit nervous having cameras follow me, but after a while, I pretended it was not there.

“I have been doing this job for 18 years and I enjoy it. I like meeting new people, You know as soon as you get to someone’s house if they are on my wave length and we can have a laugh.”

Another staff member featured was Barry Pilkington, from Hindley, who works as an environmental enforcement officer.

He said: “My job does involve rolling your sleeves up and getting dirty, I can find myself five inches deep in sewage, finding out what’s caused the complaint in the first place. I really enjoyed filming with the BBC – they made me feel at ease and let me get on with my job. After a while I forgot they were there.”