Leader of Sandwell Council Darren Cooper says he needs to get 'The Public' back on a firm financial footing - but wants to ensure the community side of the centre can keep going despite the decision to pull Arts Council funding.
Opening two years late, with contractors going into administration, and costs over-running by millions - today's announcement is the latest in a long line of problems faced by 'The Public'.
Wesley Smith takes a look back at its troubled past.
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.
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.”
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.
– Cllr Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council
“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.”
Councillors have decided to 'temporarily' close a controversial arts centre in West Bromwich, while it decides what to do with the building.
The Public opened in in 2008, two years late and £15 million over budget.
Today Sandwell Council agreed not to extend its current agreement with Sandwell Arts Trust, the organisation currently running The Public.
The centre will stay open until the end of November, after which point it will be handed back into the control of the council.
It will then be closed temporarily - but councillors today insisted the centre does have a 'long-term future'.
The building cost £67 million to build and was the mastermind of renowned architect Will Alsop.
But since its opening there's been heavy criticism the project was a waste of money.
The council says it can't afford to run the art space, cinema and gallery, which costs £30,000 a month to run - nearly £1.6 million a year.
Lee Comley reports on the discussion about future of The Public arts centre in West Bromwich
The leader of Sandwell Council says putting an end to funding The Public arts centre has been a difficult decision.
– Darren Cooper, Sandwell Council leader Councillor
It's not been an easy decision to make.
But the fact of the matter is the council can't continue to subsidise The Public.
"The overall cost to the council is currently about £30,000 a week.
That's nearly £1.6 million a year.
"That money is council taxpayers' money. In the face of the cuts the council is facing from central government, this can't carry on.
Councillors will meet today to discuss ending their subsidy to Sandwell Arts Trust to help pay for The Public arts centre.
It is expected the building will be handed back to Sandwell Council at the end of November.
The Council will then look for other businesses and organisations to it over.
– Paul Slater, Chief Executive of Sandwell Arts Trust
We are very disappointed that financial circumstances have resulted in the council making this decision.**
I thank all our employees for their hard work and dedication over the last few years, and all our visitors and tenants for their support.**
Sandwell Councillors will discuss the future of the The Public Arts Centre today.
The Council is expected to bring to an end the subsidy to Sandwell Arts Trust in November.
They now want other businesses or organisations to take over the building in West Bromwich.