Conference suite open at The Public

Controversial £72 million arts centre The Public has opened its own conference suite in a bid to get more people through the doors.

Controversial £72 million arts centre The Public has opened its own conference suite in a bid to get more people through the doors.

Bosses at the troubled building in West Bromwich, which is running £49 million over budget, said the suite, which cost £800,000, would increase versatility and offer a flexible working space for conferences and meetings.

Named after famous West Bromwich actress, Madeleine Carroll, the new suite occupies level two of the building, where refurbishments have now finished. Planners insist there has been no delay in the suite's completion.

Councillor Martin Prestidge, vice-chairman of the scrutiny management board, said the community arts centre had always included providing conference facilities.

Councillor Prestidge said: "Part of the original design for The Public was to use it for conferencing and this will help by actually bringing people into Sandwell.

"I do not think there is a contradiction between the role of The Public as a community arts centre and the use of it for conferences. I think it is complementary to it. And conferencing will provide an additional revenue stream."

Linda Saunders, managing director of The Public, said: "The suite has flexible space for small meeting rooms or break-out space for exhibitions and lunch as well.

"Generating income is important for us to secure the long-term future of the site. This is standard business strategy for galleries to offer conferencing. The National Gallery does it and it is very lucrative for them.

"We are still mindful of our community commitments as a community centre. There is a discounted rate for voluntary groups to use the space."

The cost of hiring a meeting room at the suite for 15 people costs £30 an hour and £20 an hour from then on.

An investigation into the financial performance of the centre began this month and will run until December.

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