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The background is locked, so it cannot be edited. In order to use it, I have to start with a transparent background and then choose a colour once there.
Also, it changes the colours set from RGB to Black and White.
The RGB to B/W change is strange, however.
I know that if you open a .gif the default is Index color.
Either way, just go to Image -> Mode -> RGB and that should fix it up.
In the same dialog in the Contents sections select Transparent to have your first layer empty.
If I open as white background, the background is fully locked, you cann't do anything with it at all.
It's useable but just wondering how to change it. Thanks everyone for your help though.