AN ADULT learning centre is closing today after a council said it could not follow through on a planned deal to keep it open.

In April Brighton and Hove City Council’s Labour administration drew up plans to bring adult education contracted by the Friends Centre in house. This would transfer some employees of the charity to the council payroll.

But centre curriculum lead Julia Hinks said yesterday the city council’s Green administration had “changed their minds with just four days to go”.

She announced the Friends Centre, in Isetta Square, Brighton, would close for good today, putting 46 staff out of work.

“Friends Centre will close its doors for the final time on July 31 and be placed in administration,” she said in a statement on the charity’s website.

“Friends Centre has been delivering adult education courses for 75 years and the closure of this centre will be a huge loss. Many of us have worked here for more than ten years and the team is devastated that it will be closing.

The Argus: Brighton and Hove City Council said it could not fulfil a planned deal drawn up in AprilBrighton and Hove City Council said it could not fulfil a planned deal drawn up in April

“Unfortunately over the past few years Friends Centre has suffered considerable financial difficulties related to changes in funding for adult education.

“The impact of closures and cancellations as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions have been severe.”

But city council education chief Councillor Hannah Clare said there were a number of obstacles to the planned deal.

She said the proposal agreed in April was reliant on securing a lease of the centre’s office in the New England Quarter as well as the Friends Centre remaining financially solvent.

“However, landlord consent for this lease has not been secured and sadly the Friends Centre has informed us they will be moving into administration on July 31,” Cllr Clare said.

“As a result it is not felt it would be right for us to enter into any lease arrangements on this basis.

“As part of these developments the council has looked at alternative properties within the council’s portfolio, but there are no available properties suitable for teaching at this current time.

The Argus: Education chief Councillor Hannah Clare said the situation is 'deeply regrettable'Education chief Councillor Hannah Clare said the situation is 'deeply regrettable'

"Therefore the recommendations agreed in April are no longer achievable – a situation that is deeply regrettable.

"At a meeting in April 2020, councillors expressed their intention to in-source the Adult and Community Learning services contracted out by the council to the Friends Centre and to secure a sub-lease on their Isetta Square premises.

"The council has now had to make new arrangements. These will impact upon those members of Friends Centre staff on the council contract who were expecting to transfer to the council, and we are very sorry about this.”