An agreement to transform The Public building in West Bromwich into a sixth-form complex, arts space and business support facility is due to be signed by college chiefs and Sandwell Council this month.

The deal - under which Sandwell College and the council enter into a 25-year partnership - is set to be put to the authority's Cabinet of senior councillors on October 16.

It would mean temporarily closing the controversial arts centre’s doors in November to allow conversion work in time for a sixth-form centre to open in September 2014.

The plans also include facilties for business start-ups and a support facility for entrepreneurs. There will also be an arts cafe and space for exhibitions and community activities.

Coun Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “We rescued The Public after it went belly-up some years ago and have continued to support it since.

"But the harsh reality is we simply can’t afford to carry on subsidising it to the tune of £30,000 a week - or nearly £1.6 million a year - as we are at the moment.

“This plan will save council taxpayers in Sandwell an estimated £37 million over 25 years.”

He added: “At the same time, the partnership with the college will ensure arts activities can continue at the building and help put a new focus on support for businesses.

“The council is working to relocate existing businesses there to nearby premises in West Bromwich town centre, to help safeguard them and the jobs and apprenticeships they provide.

“We’re also looking for alternative venues for some of the entertainment The Public has been offering and contacting community groups who currently use the building so we can explore the best options for them.

“We remain in regular talks with the original funders of the project to ensure they are comfortable with the plans.”

Scott Upton, vice-principal of Sandwell College, said: “This development will provide a major boost to the educational opportunities of young people in Sandwell.

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