The Rose Theatre is negotiating with Kingston Council for up to £600,000 a year of council taxpayers’ money to “provide sustainable funding”.

The Surrey Comet has learnt that Kingston University and the Arts Council are also being asked to hand over an unspecified portion of the cash.

Theatre chief executive David Fletcher said he had been talking to the council, the university and the Arts Council for some time about “sustainable funding for the future” and said negotiations had “reached an interesting, sensitive point”.

He said: “We’ve done a lot over the past year, but more could be done and we have drawn up a list of things we would like to discuss with them in return for sustainable funding.

“We are talking about quite serious amounts of money but we are giving something serious in exchange.”

The extra cash would pay for more access for young people, help the theatre plan future programming, cultivate sponsors and secure advance box office sales, as well as community work and educational events.

But Mr Fletcher said: “I really don’t know what would happen in the event of a complete climb-down from all three.

“It would be very difficult to even do what we do at the moment.”

The council executive committee will consider the proposal on December 9.

Council leader Derek Osbourne said: “Should we decide to enter into the partnership, the funding will not be a subsidy, but rather in exchange for tangible activities and services which will benefit the community, particularly young people and those normally suffering social exclusion.”

But there is political pressure not to invest any money into the cash-strapped venture.

Labour Councillor Steve Mama said: “The theatre was always going to be a white elephant.

“A public subsidy has always been on the cards from the council or the university, but rather than be upfront and say we want a theatre and will pay for it whatever the cost, the money has been handed out in dribs and drabs.

“I certainly won’t be compelling my constituents to pay for a theatre they will never use.”

Since the Liberal Democrats originally persuaded developers to build the empty shell, Kingston Council has invested £8.4m – made up of a £1.8m loan to the trust, which runs the theatre and £6.8m invested in fitting it out.

The building itself is worth several million pounds more, taking the total public money invested so far to about £11m – equivalent to £7 a year for each household in the borough.

Last August Councillor Osbourne originally pledged to close the public purse strings after handing an extra £250,000 to the Rose fit out.

But in May, the company set up by the council and university to fit out the theatre was forced to ask for an extra £350,000 to pay for cost overruns on doors, wiring and footwells, taking the final price tag to £7.15m, more than £638,000 over the original budget.

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