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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Office jibes anger Slough bosses
by Malcolm Prior
BBC News Online, Berkshire

Slough road sign
Community leaders say Slough is the place to come for business
The hit BBC comedy The Office may have put Slough in the spotlight but for the town's business chiefs the joke is rapidly wearing thin.

Claims that the programme has turned Slough into such a laughing stock that businesses no longer want to rent space have been met with derision locally.

Newspaper reports have claimed one third of space in the Berkshire town lies empty thanks to its reputation.

But town leaders say the programme has no negative effect on their fortunes.

The Office
Ricky Gervais' The Office made Slough a national joke
James Hay, who heads the Slough Chamber of Commerce, told BBC News Online: "Slough suffers from journalistic laziness - "let's think of a town to knock".

"Most of what's written is written by people who have passed through at 120mph on a Great Western service or who have never bothered to come and work here.

"This seems to happen every 12 to 18 months, someone will write an article knocking it."

He says the downbeat picture of Slough's economy portrayed in a national newspaper report at the weekend fails to look at the situation across the region.

"It's just plain wrong. It may be a fact that there's spare office space in town but to say it's only happening here and everywhere else is rosy is plain wrong.

There's more headquarters in Slough than in Wales
Bob Jones, Slough Business Community Partnership
"Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce has property groups around the area and they all report local difficulties in the property market," he said.

He and his fellow members of Slough's business community point to the number of multinational corporations that have set up in and around the town - including Citroen, O2, Yell and Honda.

Bob Jones, manager for the Slough Business Community Partnership, said: "There's more headquarters in Slough than in Wales."

Mr Jones - who manages the partnership that was set up in 2001 to get businesses more involved in supporting the town - hopes the habit of mentioning Slough and The Office in the same breath will go the same way as the infamous Betjeman poem about the town.

Graffiti on a map of Slough
There is colour to be found on the streets of Slough
"It's just not talked about in the town. We have moved on," said Mr Jones.

Meanwhile the borough council is overseeing a multi-million pound regeneration of the town, known as the Heart of Slough, which will breathe new life into its economic centre.

Rafiq Chohan, the council's head of economic development, said: "I simply do not recognise these press reports as being about Slough.

"We currently have 78,000 jobs in the town, generating 3bn of salary a year for the UK and growing.

"It is no accident that world class businesses choose to locate their European and even global headquarters in the town."

Martin Gibbons, associate director of commercial property group Lambert Smith Hampton, was the man quoted in The Observer as saying The Office had impacted on businesses.

On Monday, he told BBC News Online: "In truth when businesses are thinking of moving staff to our part of the world the fact that Ricky Gervais decided to set a prime-time comedy here has no material effect whatsoever."

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28 Jan 03  |  England


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