A deal which will see The Public transformed into a sixth form college has moved a step closer after being rubber stamped by council chiefs.
Sandwell Council’s decision-making cabinet met yesterday to approve the prospective 25-year deal between the local authority and Sandwell College for the much maligned arts centre.
Bosses say the plan, which will also see part of the building used for arts and business support, ‘gives the best option for a viable, long-term future for the building’.
A statement from the council also said the plan ‘boosts educational opportunities in the borough and cuts local council taxpayers’ subsidies’.
The current programme at The Public will end on Saturday, November 16 at the end of a planned Celebration Week, which will include live music, song and dance.
The building’s temporary closure will allow conversion work on all floors in time for a sixth form centre to open in September 2014. The college will be paying for conversion costs.
Meanwhile negotiations between college chiefs and council officers are continuing.
Councillor Darren Cooper, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “This deal offers a bright future for The Public building that invests in thousands of young people’s futures, as well as supporting the arts and putting a new focus on business.
“This plan will help the borough’s continuing drive to improve education, which is key to an area like Sandwell, and having this high-class learning centre is the icing on the cake to the educational offer for Sandwell’s young people.
“Crucially, this plan gives a more affordable, long-term future for the building.”
He added: “This has been a difficult decision and we have listened to concerns people have raised about the future use of the building, but we cannot please everybody.
“Unfortunately the harsh reality is that massive government cuts to the council’s budget mean 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.”
Scott Upton, vice-principal of Sandwell College said “The young people of Sandwell deserve the very best educational facilities. Sandwell College encourages the highest ambition amongst its students.”
The council is currently working to relocate businesses and community groups based at The Public.