Future of The Public arts centre 'under threat'

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A council is unlikely to be able to fund The Public art gallery in West Bromwich once Arts Council funding ends next year, a councillor says.

Arts Council funding from a £3m grant is to end in March 2011, and the deputy leader of Sandwell Council said it could not be expected to fill the gap.

The council gave the building about £500,000 annually, Councillor Steve Eling said.

Managing director Linda Saunders said the council had not spoken to her.

However, she said talks were on-going with both councils about funding and the Art Council had "never closed the door" on discussions.

Mr Eling said the gallery was now getting an income from commercial lettings.

The council will ask the Arts Council for more money but if it is not forthcoming, the current business plan will have to be reviewed because of government-imposed budget cuts, he said.

'No expectation'

"What is certainly uncertain is any further Arts Council funding from April next year," he said.

"Obviously, everyone knows what is happening with public sector budgets, so I have already had to make clear that there cannot be any expectation that the council would make up the gap..."

The building opened in 2007, two years late and nearly £15m over budget.

It went into administration in 2006, when it was being run by a private company, and was effectively bailed out by a £1.6m grant.

Its facilities include performance spaces, a recording studio, offices and a cafe and an interactive gallery which opened much later than scheduled.

Ms Saunders said about 15,000 visitors came to the gallery in July and they are speaking to potential tenants while making more rentable space available.

The Arts Council confirmed it was withdrawing its funding in January last year but a gave a final one-off grant of £3m last summer to go towards capital costs as well as running costs, Mr Eling said.

He said the building could still function without the Arts Council money but it would need to look at what areas remain open and other ways of generating income.

The Arts Council has contributed about £30m to the project in total while Sandwell Council has paid £18m.

The regional development agency Advantage West Midlands and the European Union have also provided funds.

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