The Public is example of Government 'waste'

Sandwell | News | Published:

Controversial arts centre The Public has taken centre stage in a national campaign against £120 billion of 'wasted' taxpayers money.

The striking pink framed building in New Street, West Bromwich, cost £72 million to build and open but closed last November after Sandwell Council pulled its £1.6m a year subsidy.

Pressure group The TaxPayers' Alliance has been handing out leaflets outside the venue saying the years of spiralling costs during its construction are saddling the next generation with debts.

It claims the 'immoral' waste of money during the building of the Public has contributed to debts that will take generations to pay off.

The building is going to be used as a sixth form centre by Sandwell College from September.

Much of the money to build the centre came from the Arts Council quango under the former Labour government. Delays and spiralling costs saw it put into administration before it even opened although it was eventually in 2008.

But it required significant support from Sandwell Council which the ruling Labour group decided should cease in the wake of its own grants being slashed by central government.

The TaxPayers' Alliance pressure group is on a national tour and was handing out leaflets in West Bromwich and Dudley.

The organisation said the UK Government spent £718 billion of the public's money last year but that its research showed £120bn was wasted.


Dia Chakravarty, political director for the group, said: "Savings need to be made and everyone understands that.

"But the situation would be much better without such wasteful projects as The Public.

"No-one has been held to account for this.

"Far too much taxpayers' money is wasted, keeping taxes high and taking precious resources away from essential services. It's time for a war on waste right across the public sector across the West Midlands and the rest of the UK.


"It would be nothing short of immoral to saddle the next generation with our trillion-pound debt mountain. We need to strip out wasteful and unnecessary spending and start living within our means again.

"For too long taxpayers' money has been spent with impunity, with little accountability and not enough transparency. The War on Waste hopes to change that and remind those we trust with our money that we're watching how it is spent very carefully indeed."

The War on Waste Roadshow is taking in 29 towns and cities across England and Wales over nine days.

Councillor Steve Eling, finance boss at Sandwell Council, said: "Arts Council England funded The Public but it was the council that ended up having to clear up the mess.

"Value was never going to be secured from it.

"The lesson to be learned is that organisations like the Arts Council are not elected, yet they have a huge deal of say on these sorts of projects, and when they go wrong you cannot see them for dust."

In 2011 the Arts Council published an independent report on 'lessons learned' saying The Public suffered from 'late and major design changes', that it should not have allowed the project to go ahead and that it had been 'over-dependent on consultants' - something that it has since corrected.

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