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Council forces government to explain why school modernisation programme axed

Sandwell Council has won a landmark ruling ordering the government to explain why it axed the Building Schools for the Future programme.

It comes more than a year after the council made a Freedom of Information request to find out why Sandwell's £125m fund to rebuild nine schools was scrapped.

The government has 28days to appeal the decision.

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Birmingham council admits 'long-standing problem'

A spokesman for Birmingham City Council, which was singled out for criticism in Ofsted's report on child protection, has acknowledged that there is a long-standing problem:

We are already on record as saying that we have failed to meet the basic expectation of keeping vulnerable children in this city safe.

This is a long-standing problem which we acknowledge and the leader has said that improving children's services is his number one priority.

While we can only agree with the seriousness of what Sir Michael [Wilshaw] has said with regard to children's services - indeed we have said it ourselves - we now need improvement rather than further diagnosis lacking any offer of solutions.

– birmingham city council spokesman

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Failing Birmingham council 'should be split'

The Chief Inspector at Ofsted has highlighted Birmingham as one of the worst councils for child protection.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said: "We've allowed failure to go and on and on in Birmingham for far too long.

"The stats are there to see, it points to endemic failure. This isn't good enough and children are at risk, now is the time for central government to do something about it and see if local government is working. If it's not working then I'm calling on central government to break Birmingham up."

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The public at 'The Public' against looming closure

People at 'The Public' in West Bromwich expressed their sadness at the prospect it will close from December.

Many visiting today say it's well used facility by people in the town, and will only get busier now a new shopping centre has opened next door.

Sandwell Council agreed to pull funding from the Arts Council and end its contract, saying the running of the cinema and gallery space was too expensive for taxpayers.

Arts Council 'disappointed' at The Public closure

The Arts Council says it's disappointed at Sandwell Council's decision to end its contract to run The Public arts centre in West Bromwich.

It's after councillors decided the running of the building was too costly, in a review over funding.

An Arts Council spokesperson said:**

**“Thanks to the good work undertaken by Sandwell Arts Trust, the Public has become a much valued arts centre for the people of Sandwell. While we understand that there are pressures on local authority budgets, we are disappointed to hear that Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council will not be extending the current contract with the Trust to run The Public as a dedicated arts centre. We will continue our conversations with the Council and all interested parties to ensure that a future of high quality arts provision and opportunities are made available to the people of the Black Country.

“Sandwell Arts Trust has a three-year funding agreement with Arts Council England to provide an arts and digital programme. This offers them a total of £600,000, which equates to £200,000 per year ending in 2015. They have currently received £300,000, and following Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council’s announcement this afternoon, we will be reviewing this funding.”

Council in talks to secure The Public in the 'long term'

Speaking about the decision to temporarily close controversial West Bromwich arts centre The Public from November, the leader of Sandwell Council said:

“Despite what some reports may have implied, we have not voted to permanently close The Public building – and we’ve never said we were going to.“Sandwell Arts Trust didn’t want any further short-term agreements and asked us for a minimum five-year deal. We are not in a position to offer this because of the current economic climate and central government cuts the council is facing year on year.

“Sandwell Arts Trust have done a great job but the financial circumstances mean The Public can’t continue in its current form.“We wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for the scale of government cuts. We have tough decisions to take – and as leader I have focused on protecting vital frontline services.”

– Cllr Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council
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