Radio Sandwell Local News

The Public arts centre in West Bromwich to close

2013-08-09 21:58:44

The Public
The Public cost £67m and opened in 2008

The £72m Public arts centre in West Bromwich is to close.

Sandwell Council said it could not continue subsidising the £30,000-a-week cost of running the attraction, which opened two years late in June 2008.

The Public's managing director Linda Saunders said the decision was "heartbreaking" and she was disappointed for the staff.

She said 120 paid apprentices and 60 workers would "immediately" lose their jobs when it closes on 30 November.

'Cannot carry on'

Recent proposals have been put forward to transform the building into a sixth form college.

Council leader Darren Cooper said he knew the building "means a lot to many people" and it had "not been an easy decision to make".

Linda Saunders
The Public's manager Linda Saunders said the
decision was "heartbreaking"

He added: "The fact of the matter is the council cannot continue to subsidise The Public.

"The overall cost to the council is currently about £30,000 a week. That is nearly £1.6m a year.

"That is taxpayers' money. In the face of cuts from central government, this cannot carry on."

Ro Harris, from the LearnPlay Foundation, which provides an outreach service to schools, said: "We employ 150 staff at The Public.

"We will meet on Monday to discuss what will happen to us.

"At the moment we just do not know."

A total of 30 businesses are based in The Public.

Dennis Patel's IT recruitment company moved into the building, in April.

He said: "The Public has had a rocky start but now it's right on the verge of achieving its potential. There are more and more artists and comedians coming here. There is nothing else like it."

'Complete waste of money'

However, mother-of-one and office worker Jenny Judge, from Mollin Street in Smethwick, said: "Thank God for that.

Catherine King
Catherine King said the closure of The Public
could mean the end of her knitting group

"It was a complete waste of money.

"You would not get me in there if you paid me. To think what they could have spent that money on."

Jean Groves, 77, from the Yew Tree estate on the border of West Bromwich and Walsall, said: "I think it's a shame.

"I have a lot of friends who use The Public.

"I like the cafe, I like the theatre. But I also understand Sandwell College needs more space."

Great-grandmother Catherine King has attended a knitting group every Friday at The Public and said she feared it would be unable to continue.

"It will be hard to find somewhere that can accommodate wheelchairs and scooters," she said.

"The town hall is difficult to access.

"The library is not easy to get to. We're devastated. It has really upset me."

Source: bbc.co.uk

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