A TORY politician last night branded Crewe's Lyceum Theatre a shambles and said it is losing money because it stages too many arty shows.
Conservative borough councillor Brian Sylvester claims a new report by government inspectors has revealed that public subsidies of more than £1,000 a day are being wasted on a theatre with an almost non-existent programming policy.
He is calling on the Cabinet Member in charge of Leisure, Coun Jayne Wright, to stand down.
The report, by the Government's Best Value Team, assessed whether council tax payers were getting value for money from their leisure and arts services.
This included an annual subsidy of £350,000 for the running of the theatre.
The report concluded that the council had no vision or framework for arts and culture and no serious commitment to competition and that it had failed to identify key issues facing the theatre.
There was no formal programming policy for the Lyceum, customer satisfaction levels were low and 75pc of calls to the box office went unanswered, it said.
The borough's arts and culture provision was unlikely to improve, said the report.
Coun Sylvester claims that, without clear objectives for the service, staff are simply making it up as they go along.
He said: "I, on behalf of the Conservative group, have been calling for most of these changes, identified by the government inspectors, for many years.
"Independent outside professionals have now concluded that our analysis was right.
"The Lyceum Theatre is costing council tax payers more than £1,000 per day and value for money is not being obtained."
Coun Sylvester claimed that the staging of arty, unpopular productions was keeping audiences away from the Lyceum.
He said: "We are putting on shows that aren't as popular as they should be and we are paying management costs for a shambles. At some of these shows, the theatre is only half full.
"We should have a popular programming policy to increase the income through the box office. To have 75pc of box office calls unanswered is ridiculous," he said.
But Coun Peter Kent, leader of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, vigorously defended the council's record and described Coun Wright's handling of the service as first class.
"Coun Sylvester is talking nonsense," he said.
"The conclusions he refers to in the report are very selective and out of context.
"These reports are supposed to be critical. If they said everything was wonderful we wouldn't learn anything.
"We have a good, varied programme and I know we have a strategy because I sat down and wrote it myself."
He added: "Keith Harris and Orville may not be my cup of tea but it brings the punters in. On the other hand, some of our shows do only bring in 50pc of the audience, but it is also about expanding the cultural horizons of people in the area.
"I would like Brian Sylvester to name me one theatre, outside tourist resorts, that is self-sustaining.
"We used to regularly go over budget, but Jayne Wright has promised to keep us within budget and she has kept her word. I think she is a first-class chairman."
Coun Wright was away on leave yesterday.
The report will be considered by the Arts and Culture Scrutiny Committee on tomorrow.