SENIOR councillors have approved a controversial hike in community group room rental charges, despite protests from colleagues.

Flintshire’s executive committee has stuck by its decision to almost double the cost of hiring out rooms for community groups over the next three years, despite a call-in which forced it to re-examine the issue.

Cllr Tony Sharps, the council’s deputy leader, said setting rental charges and supporting groups should be examined as two separate issues.

He added: “I would suggest that next year we try to clear this situation up and keep the two issue separate, otherwise it will get very messy.”

Under the new proposals, hire charges to organisations where the clientele is under 11 or over 25 will rise from £8.50 per session to £14.50 by 2012.

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

Playgroup organisers claim the price increases, due to come into effect today, could close groups already struggling to stay afloat.

Treuddyn councillor Carolyn Thomas, a former committee member at Treuddyn playgroup, said: “This will be devastating for the county’s playgroups.

“It is so difficult for them already that some of the fully qualified supervisors can’t even afford to take a wage during the autumn.

“It is no good saying that the council will look at ways of helping the groups next year, because they will be closed by then.”

But Cllr Sharps said playgroups were struggling for reasons unrelated to money problems.

He added: “The reason many of them aren’t doing well isn’t because of financial trouble – it’s because their roll numbers are decreasing because people aren’t having babies.”