• Wednesday , 20 August 2014

The Public – tough decisions in tough times

The PublicThere’s been a lot of talk these past few days in the press and on social media about The Public building in West Bromwich.

I want to make it clear the council is not permanently closing the building – and we’ve never said we were going to.

What we have agreed today is that we have to do things differently because we can’t afford for The Public to carry on as it is at £30,000 a week – nearly £1.6 million a year.

As leader of the council, I am having to make tough decisions because of the scale of central government cuts.  We wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for these cuts.

I’ve always said I will focus on protecting vital frontline services and I’ve asked myself time and again, if we continue with The Public in its current form, what else would have to go?

I want to place on record my thanks to Sandwell Arts Trust – they’ve done a great job. They have asked us for a new five-year deal and didn’t want any further short-term agreements. Because of the financial circumstances, we couldn’t offer them five years – and so we’re in the position we are in. The Trust has agreed to continue until 30 November when it will hand the building back to us.

I want to reassure everyone that we are working to secure a long-term, financially viable future for the building. If it does shut for a period of time for work to be carried out, this will be temporary, not permanent.

We are looking at a number of options – one of which is Sandwell College using the building as a sixth form and lifelong learning centre – with arts, community and business provision too. I’m sorry I can’t say more about that today other than to say our talks continue.

I know the building means a lot to many people and we’ve listened to those who’ve campaigned to keep it as it is. We will ensure the building still serves the local community and supports arts, learning and business – but in a different and more affordable way to now.

We do support the arts in many ways in Sandwell at a number of venues across the borough – for example just this week we have the Sandwell Arts Festival getting under way and we currently have the Bill Viola exhibition at Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery on loan from the Tate and National Galleries Scotland.

And to the businesses and groups that use The Public building, I want to say we will be talking to you to make sure your work and activities continue in the town centre.

Finally, I would like to remind everyone that the council rescued The Public after it went into administration some years ago – we could have walked away then but we didn’t.

We remain committed to securing The Public building’s long-term future. I hope people will understand that, in the face of very difficult economic times, we are working to give the building a more secure future and definitely not turning our backs and shutting its doors for good.

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  • Ben Rock September 25, 2013 at 10:33 am

    “focus on protecting vital frontline services”

    The Training and Development Centre site closes its doors next month…there are 6 members of staff who will be at risk of compulsory redundancy by Dec 2013. These are frontline staff who are losing there jobs – when there is a lot of work still available in Facilities Management – because the ‘proposed restructure’ hasnt been done (even though in Aug we were told it would be done, and then done by September). Other members of staff in FM want to take voluntary redundancy – but are unable to leave because there are not enough staff to fill the job roles/undertake the work? Where is the sense in this? All of this taking place in the cabinet portfolio that sits with yourself Councillor.

  • Mark Evans August 21, 2013 at 8:03 am

    My main concern is that having a college there will ruin what you have a New Square. Who will really like a nice romantic meal out at Prezzo with hoards of teens roaming around outside the college over the road. I hear Tesco are furious over this and would not have built there had the closure of the public being made know. Lots of people I know were just beginning to discover The Public and finding out what it has to offer. Maybe they should have built the current new Sandwell College the correct size in the first place?

    Anyhow, I guess we have to thank Labour for leaving the country in such a mess – now we are paying the price. Something good was happening in West Bromwich, now I think it’s coming to a rather early finish.

  • Mr Black Country August 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    So you built a project which was over budget, wasn’t used, bailed it out and then still decide to retain it at the tax payers expense ?

    • darrencooper August 14, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Sandwell Council did not Build the Public. Your correct about the bail out. And it’s future and who will fund it is still open to debate. Thanks for your comment.

      • John August 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm

        Well what cabinet member was involved then ?
        who gave them the land ?
        who was on the original board ?

      • Victoria Burke August 14, 2013 at 9:51 pm

        In a round about sort of way I have thought the Council funded the public project, as I thought that Jubilee Arts was in part funded by the council?

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