Today the Mercury is launching a campaign to secure the future of Milford Haven's award-winning Torch Theatre. People have been outraged at the town council's decision to cut its funding for the Torch, which equates to just 49p per person a year, less than 1p a week.

IT has been two weeks since the Mercury revealed Milford Haven Town Council had cut its funding for the Torch Theatre from £6,500 to £3,250 and the letters have been flooding in ever since.

The decision has put a £120,000 Arts Council for Wales grant at risk, which could spell disaster for the Torch.

The theatre, which is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary in Milford, is closed while a £5.4million redevelopment project is completed.

Chief executive of the Arts Council of Wales, Peter Tyndall said: "The Torch Theatre is a major asset to Milford Haven and the people who live, work or visit there.

"The redevelopment of the Torch is therefore important for the future development of the town itself."

The Mercury offered to raise £3,250 to replace the slashed funding, but the arts council insisted the money comes from the town council.

Pembrokeshire County Council has given the Torch almost £130,000, including £7,000 for the youth theatre, and has allocated one-off building grants totalling £105,000 this year.

The town council initially halved its funding at a special meeting in January when councillors voted to give £3,250 to local schools to attend the Christmas pantomime.

Although this meant the Torch would receive the money indirectly, the pantomime has been called off due to the redevelopment work.

The town council then voted to use the money to fund a trip to the planned Winter Wonderland.

The decision sparked a furious row between town councillors with seven voting for the proposal, four against it and four being unable to vote because of their connection with the Torch.

Some councillors who voted for the cuts argued that as the Torch has reserves of £133,000 it does not need the funding.

However, as the theatre has earmarked £100,000 of its reserves for building work and still has to find another £120,000, the usable reserves actually total £33,000.

The Charity Commission requires the Torch to keep reserves and £33,000 is much lower than the recommend level.

If you think the Torch Theatre is good value for the town at less than 1p a week, fill in the coupon inside this weeks Merc and return it to the Milford Mercury offices: 92 Charles Street, Milford Haven, SA73 2HE or sign the online petition.

To find out what West End star Connie Fisher, Cabinet member for tourism and cultural services Rob Lewis and Editor of the Milford Mercury Fiona Phillips think about the town councils decision to cut funding, get your copy of this weeks Mercury.