The Theatres Trust

Arts Council England ignored good advice over The Public, West Bromwich

11th November 2011

Arts Council England has been lambasted in an independent report for its handling of its £31.8 million investment in The Public in West Bromwich. The review by Anthony Blackstock, entitled The Public – Lessons learned by Arts Council England, follows a report by the culture, media and sport select committee published in March that called the project a “gross waste of public money”.

The Public opened fully in 2009 and includes a theatre, two galleries and commercial spaces. ACE gave a total of £31.8 million funding to the project, up from an original allocation of £19 million. According to the report, the local authority estimates that the total construction cost for the centre stands at £52.6 million, with other funders including the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.

Specific failures listed in the report included a lack of leadership capable of realising the project, ACE not renewing a legal charge on the building after it lapsed meaning it cannot recover its investment if the property is sold, lack of clarity on the project within the arts council and that it never had sufficient evidence that The Public represented a viable business operation.

Blackstock says: “Advisers’ clear and strong misgivings were justified. The arts council erred in 2001 and should have retracted at any time up to May 2003. It is not clear why it ignored good advice. The speculation is that the wider social goal dominated all other factors.”

Read the full story in The Stage

View Anthony Blackstock’s report The Public: Lessons learned by Arts Council England

View Arts Council England’s Response to The Public: Lessons learned by Arts Council England

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