The Public – it seems it’s hardly been out of the news these past few months.
Well today, I can confirm we’re pressing ahead with a deal with Sandwell College to transform the building into a sixth form centre, arts space and business support facility.
My Cabinet colleagues and I agreed this afternoon this ambitious plan gives the best option for a more affordable, long-term future for the building.
I believe this is great news for education in Sandwell. Thousands of young people for generations to come will benefit from having a much-needed, high-class sixth form learning centre right in the heart of West Bromwich town centre.
We’re always striving to improve education in Sandwell – it’s so important. And in my view this prospective deal is the icing on the cake to what we offer to our young people.
Our 25-year partnership with the college means people will still be able to enjoy a variety of arts-based activities at the building when it opens as a sixth form centre in September 2014. Together, we’re also making sure the building will support enterprise and business. The college will be paying for conversion costs.
The decision over The Public’s future has been a difficult one. I know it means a lot to many people – and we’ve listened to concerns people have raised.
But the harsh reality is that massive government cuts mean we simply can’t afford to carry on as we are, subsidising to the tune of £30,000 a week – or nearly £1.6 million a year.
We can’t please everybody. But I hope people will understand we’ve had to take a tough decision that helps us save money to protect frontline services for the majority of local people, while also securing a future for the building that invests in our young people’s education and still supports arts, enterprise and business.
I want to place on record once more my thanks to Sandwell Arts Trust and staff at The Public for their work and efforts over the past four years.
We are working with businesses and groups that have been using the building to help find them new premises. We want to make sure their work and activities continue in the town when the building closes in its current form on 16 November in preparation for work to convert it to start.
Finally, I look forward to us working with the college and finalising our agreement, so we can look to a new era and secure future for the building following the uncertainty of recent months.
You can read more on the council website.