MALVERN Theatres will receive more than £200,000 a year from the district council under a new three-year sponsorship deal.

Coun Bryan Smith, the authority's representative on the board of trustees, said the agreement underlined the council's commitment to the venue.

But the grant of £204,000 a year for the next three years is £23,000 less than the council gave the threatres than last year. Coun Smith blamed this on budget problems caused by lack of financial support from the Government.

He described the grant as a figure that "strikes the right balance" between financial pressures and the "cultural and tourism aspirations of Malvern".

Coun Smith said Malvern Theatres was an asset to the town and that for every £1 the council provided in funding, £4-£5 was brought into the local economy.

"Malvern Hills District Council is well aware just how important the theatre complex is to the town and district as a whole," he said.

"It's by far our greatest evening time attraction and a source of considerable and justified pride to the great majority of local people.

"The quality of its performances is quite outstanding and national premieres of shows that are destined for London are not unusual.

"In no way is the council going to put all this at risk by making cavalier cuts in its grant to the theatres."

Theatres chief executive Nic Lloyd said the board had discussed the grant at its meeting earlier this week.

"We don't like grant cuts," he said. "However successful we have been artistically we are, at best, breaking even. It's a struggle but we'll do everything we can to work within the grant."