COMMUNITY spirit will be hit hard if playgroup charges rise, a councillor has claimed.

Sealand councillor Christine Jones has blasted the rise in rental charges that Flintshire Council is set to impose on playgroups, fearing they could be forced to close.

The move will affect 15 playgroups across the county which pay the council’s youth services to rent space within school complexes.

Cllr Jones said it is not just children who will have to suffer the consequences.

She added: “I have got a pensioners’ group which has used our local centre every Thursday for donkey’s years.

“They are a small group who pay the maximum amount to use the building because they do not get subsidised.

“They will not be able to afford this.

“There is also a Brownie group who use it every Tuesday.

“They can’t afford to pay the rent either.

“These are the most vulnerable people in our society and they are being hit yet again.”

Under the proposals hire charges to organisations where the clientele is under 11 or over 25 would rise from £8.50 per session to £14.50 by 2012 meaning charges would almost double in two years.

Cllr Jones said the charges would affect community morale.

She added: “We are trying to build up a community and have community spirit but we just can’t while this is going on."

Flintshire Council insisted the rise was necessary to sustain the council’s youth services which are subsiding community groups by about £50,000 a year.

Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, executive member for education and youth, said: “The costs of using youth centres do not reflect the costs of opening the centres.

“They are also much lower than other comparable community facilities.”

The charges will come into effect on April 1.