Burnley has more potential than ‘Poorhouses’

The last Burnley workhouse (otherwise known as poorhouses) was either converted into the hospital we use today or demolished in 2008 so the suggestion that Burnley is itself part of a ‘Poorhouse’ in the Independent came as quite the surprise.

Stephen Ackers MendITBy Stephen Ackers, managing director of MendIT.

They are referring to the research undertaken by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation of course; 74 cities struggling to keep up with the UK’s average employment rates, levels of highly qualified workers, numbers of jobs and more. Burnley ranked as the 2nd worst town in the UK.

The same Burnley that won the UK’s most Enterprising Area just three years ago, the same Burnley that brought together more than 100 businesses with its unique and proud Bondholders scheme, the same Burnley that has attracted millions and millions of pounds of new investment, the same Burnley that has a football team par excellence!

The irony is that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation aims to ‘inspire social change’ – what more could they ask for? Are we even talking about the same place?

Burnley is home to some of the UK’s megabrands and has titans of engineering amongst its number. The town has higher than regional average employment in certain occupations – financial and insurance being one of them. My own company MendIT doubled its turnover each year for the first three years, winning the Everline Future 50 Award for being one of the UK’s most disruptive insurance companies.

I have to agree with Steve Rumbelow, Rochdale Council's chief executive, when he says that the research is passed its sell by date, a lot can happen in twelve months. Even the Financial Times points out that reversing the trends studied by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will not be a short term project.

What the study doesn’t show, what it can’t report on is potential and community spirit which Burnley is rolling in. The way everybody pulled together in the recent flooding is a perfect example of that. Having national newspapers attach an outdated label to a town is more than unhelpful, it’s potential damaging. Maybe we’re not part of a Powerhouse just yet, but we’ve got bags of pride, momentum and we mustn’t be discouraged. Everywhere in Burnley innovation and inspiration builds…unlike our poorhouses of the past, which is where we’d prefer to leave them.