Sandwell Council has been forced to pump in another £3 million to make sure West Bromwich’s controversial interactive arts centre The Public is completed.
The Public finally opened on June 28, two years late and millions of pounds over budget. The cost of the centre has now risen from £54 million to £57 million and the local authority might still have to find thousands of pounds more to fit out commercial space within the four-storey building.
Sandwell Council deputy leader Coun Steve Eling said that the council had been left “between a rock and a hard place” and had no choice but to find the extra money to make sure the centre was completed.
“If we had just left the building three-quarters finished then we would have been forced to pay back £13 million in European cash and to Advantage West Midlands,” he said. “We could not let that happen and, of course, we have been forced to find this extra £3 million from our reserves.
“The Public went into administration in 2006, when work was halted, and putting this project back together has been like rebuilding Humpty Dumpty.”
Coun Eling warned that the council could have to find more cash fitting out space for tenants but each case would be looked at on its merits.
“If we come to a position where it could be a deal-breaker if we do not fit out a space then we might have to do that obviously. But the cost of fit out work would not be that high anyway and is manageable,” he added.
Coun Eling stressed that the council had the extra £3 million in its reserves and had been able to manage the payout “without a great deal of pain”. He stressed the extra £3 milion would not impact on council taxpayers.
Sandwell Council’s ruling cabinet met to discuss the latest crisis at The Public in secret session.
Coun Eling added that a member working group had been set up to mastermind the future management of The Public.