Council documents outlining plans to shut Sutton’s theatres, have suggested one of the reasons the venues should be closed is that they are predominantly used by middle-aged affluent white people.

In the ‘Proposals for the future of culture services in Sutton’ report, to be put to council tonight, the author states the council wants to provide services that are fair.

They go on to say that the theatres are not used by all areas of the Sutton community, with 91 per cent of theatre-goers being white.

The report also states two-thirds of users are aged between 35 and 64, 84 per cent are owner occupiers, and non-users are most likely to be 16 to 24, living in rented accommodation, and of a black and minority ethnic background.

Deputy leader of the Conservative opposition Tony Shields said: "It is despicable, and it is disgusting to base closures of council services on race grounds.

"It just goes to show how desperate the council is. They are prepared to find any justification to close these theatres.

"What if there was another cultural service mainly used by one of the minority ethnicities, would they close that down?"

A council spokesman said: "Surveys show our theatres and halls are used by only 22 per cent of residents and cost the public £5.65 to subsidise every visit. 

"That is the equivalent of over half a million pounds in subsidy every year.

"Given that we have to save £40m from our annual budget of £152m, we are proposing an extensive consultation on the future of services. 

"Sutton’s Future is about encouraging people to get involved in decisions that shape their borough.

"In order to do that, it is important that we provide background information including a breakdown of service users.

"We also have an obligation to use this information to make an assessment of the impact of any decision we take on users. 

"To take an extract of this breakdown and say that we are proposing the closure of theatres because not enough ethnic minorities use them is simply wrong."