Kingston Council is subsidising the International Youth Arts Festival (IYAF) “through the back door” to the tune of almost £200,000, opposition councillors have claimed.

Conservative leader Howard Jones revealed details of the council’s service level agreement with the Rose Theatre during a budget meeting on Thursday.

Former Liberal Democrat council leader Derek Osbourne always insisted the money given to the Rose was not a “blank cheque subsidy”, but in exchange for services received by Kingston Council.

The release of the agreement makes clear how the council values the services it receives.

Surrey Comet: IYAF: French middle school pupils bring teenage love story to UK

Young people from around the world have taken part in the festival

Creative Youth, which organises IYAF, receives the equivalent of £190,825 of the council’s annual £500,000 Rose funding by getting exclusive use of the venue for 18 days during the festival.

The Rose Plus community programme received £120,000 worth while the Kingston Connections storytelling project was given the equivalent of £68,000.

Coun Jones said: “The money is supposed to be used for services on behalf of the council, towards education and community.

“We find out, only by questioning detail of how the money is being spent from unpublished council documents, that nearly £200,000 goes to IYAF, which already gets £36,000 from other grants and awards of the council.

“Are we supporting the theatre or IYAF?

“It seems that without any public scrutiny or agreement, IYAF gets a huge subsidy through the back door.”

Surrey Comet: Councillor Howard Jones

Conservative leader Howard Jones

The first IYAF was held in 2009, as part of a new deal between the council and the Rose, which saw the annual funding to the theatre cut from £600,000 to £500,000.

Creative Youth director Aniela Zaba said IYAF had held five festivals with more than 19,000 young people taking part, including children from 30 schools, Anstee Bridge, Kingston Young Carers, Refugee Action Kingston, Feltham Young Offenders and Educare Small School.

She said: “Without that initial support from the council and the access to the Rose none of this would have been possible.

"We have tried to get a meeting with Coun Jones to talk about IYAF but unfortunately no dates have been offered by the councillor.”

Rose Theatre chief executive Robert O’Dowd said how the council allocated the money was their concern.

Surrey Comet: Prince Edward shakes hands with IYAF director Jeremy Sachs, alongside Rose chief executive Robert O'Dowd and fellow festival organisers

Prince Edward meets IYAF organisers Robin Hutchinson, Aniela Zaba, former festival director Jeremy Sachs and Rose Theatre chief executive Robert O'Dowd, at the the closing of last year's IYAF festival

He said: “We are, however, delighted the support from the new deal has enabled IYAF to grow and become the largest youth festival in the country and we are proud this amazing annual event has its home at the Rose.”

Councillor David Ryder-Mills, Liberal Democrat lead member for schools and continuing education, said: “IYAF introduces hundreds of youngsters to performance and the concept of volunteering.

“It is a large part of the borough’s service agreement with the theatre, but money very well spent.”

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