Nearly half of the free tickets for schoolchildren to see shows at the Rose Theatre went unused last year, it has been revealed.
Of the 5,688 free seats allocated to schools and children’s groups in 2013, only 2,939 of the tickets were taken up, Kingston Council figures have shown.
The wasted tickets are worth an estimated £27,490.
Free tickets for schoolchildren to shows specifically targeted at them was a central promise by former Kingston Council leader Derek Osbourne when he justified bailing the theatre out with £600,000 in 2008.
David Fletcher, then chief executive of the Rose, said at the time: “We will deliver what we say we will deliver in exchange for this.”
Despite the lack of interest, the council is still paying for the full £56,880 worth of tickets.
Conservative leader Howard Jones said this week: “I’m really pleased that the Rose makes performances available to schoolchildren within the borough, but the accounts don’t seem to add up, and I’m not convinced these figures are sustainable.”
David Ryder Mills, lead member for schools and continuing education, said: “The offer is there for schools to take up.
"Some schools take it up very well, but we’re disappointed in the take up of some other schools.”
Former Labour Councillor Shelia Griffin, whose deciding vote in 2008 ensured the council would fund the Rose, said: “It would be nice to have something on the wall saying how to apply for these tickets.
“I don’t think there’s enough transparency.
“They’ve also been very narrow in their selection of plays. I think they could be a bit more adventurous sometimes.”
Although the Rose has put on popular children's shows like the Gruffalo before, the take up of free school tickets for some plays has been poor this year
Rose Theatre chief executive Robert O'Dowd said: "The year before last the uptake was 75 per cent and I think the reason it's dropped is a number of things.
"The primary schools are taking up their allocation very well, but personally I think it might be more difficult for secondary schools to take up ticket offers.
"They have a lot of curriculum to get through and they need to find the time within that to organise a theatre trip.
"But we are sitting down with the council very soon to look at how we can get more take up of available tickets.
"The borough are very keen for it to happen, and we're very keen to make it happen."