Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Arts complex's future discussed

The Public, West Bromwich
The Public's interactive gallery has still not opened

The future of a controversial arts complex is hanging in the balance as arts chiefs decide whether to keep on funding it after annual costs doubled.

The Public, in West Bromwich, partially opened to the public last June two years late and nearly 15m over budget.

But its main feature, an interactive gallery, has still not opened.

The Arts Council, which funds the gallery, currently provides 520,000 a year but Sandwell Council has said the annual budget will need to rise to 1m.

The funding issue is contained in the minutes of a council cabinet meeting in December.

Distinctive building

The cabinet also agreed to find an extra 1m for the complex for the current financial year.

The Arts Council was meeting to discuss the issue on Tuesday but a decision is not expected until later in the week.

Sandwell made its commitment before Christmas and we're sure that the Arts Council will today
David Clarke, Director, The Public

The Public went into administration in 2006 before effectively being saved by a 1.6m grant.

It reopened last year and attracted criticism over plans to charge people 6.95 to enter the interactive gallery, although it has yet to implement the charges.

Its facilities include performance spaces, a recording studio, offices and a cafe.

The Public's Director David Clarke said he was confident the centre's future was secure.

He said: "We always knew when we commenced the rescue of this project in 2006 that the funders, particularly the Arts Council and the local authority, would need to invest properly in it at the level that other similar centres get.

"Sandwell made its commitment before Christmas and we're sure that the Arts Council will today."

The distinctive pink and black building was designed by architect Will Alsopp and has cost about 60m.

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

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

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