West Bromwich MP Tom Watson today urged council bosses to find a way to keep arts centre The Public open.
The Labour MP admitted he was ‘taken by surprise’ when an announcement was made that funding for the arts trust that runs it would be cut.
Sandwell Council has taken the decision to axe funding for The Public in the wake of spending cuts but campaigners want to keep the centre open.
A vote is being taken tomorrow at a council meeting but Mr Watson said there had been a ‘clarion cry’ from users who responded to a consultation he ran, saying the New Street venue should stay open. It cost taxpayers £72 million to build and open while the council funds it to the tune of £30,000 a week.
Mr Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, said: “I was taken by surprise at the announcement on the future of the Arts Trust that currently runs The Public.
“A number of community groups had convinced me that I should consult the users of The Public to find out their views of the building.
“The cabinet decision was taken before I had chance to compile the responses and submit them to the council for consideration
“I am still going to submit the responses to the council but in advance of their meeting, I want them to know that on the basis of my consultation, there is a huge demand for a community use of the building to be retained.
“From the tea dancers to the retired members of the discussion group, University of the Third Age, there was a clarion cry: ‘please let us use the Public’.
“I sincerely hope that a solution can be found that provides a continued use of the building for Sandwell’s community organisations.”
Managing director of The Public Linda Saunders revealed last week that dozens of jobs would be lost when the centre closes.
She said events and conferences scheduled to take place before November 30 would be honoured, but said the venue had had to turn away £50,000 worth of business since it was announced that it faced an uncertain future earlier this year.
Sandwell Council revealed this summer that Sandwell College wanted to take over the controversial arts centre to provide places for 500 A-level students.