COMMUNITY leaders have hit out at the county council for pressing ahead with a controversial proposal to increase room rental charges at youth centres.

Last month councillors planned to increase letting charges at centres across the county but after a backlash the decision was “called in” for review and it was decided to refer the matter back to the executive for further consideration.

Just four days later council leaders voted to go ahead with the controversial changes, which will see rent increased from £8.50 to £14.50 per session by 2012 for organisations that meet at youth clubs where the clientele is under 11 or over 25.

The move will put 15 playgroups at risk as well as several community groups.

Sealand councillor Chris Jones said the rent hike would threaten the future of the pensioners’ group and the Brownies in her ward, which both use the youth club in Sandy Lane.

She said: “I was furious when I read the minutes of that meeting.

“It’s not just the playgroups which will be affected. I have got other groups which use the youth club and it’s going to kill them dead. If you don’t save the community groups you will have nothing left. They need saving above anything else.”

Treuddyn councillor and former Treuddyn Playgroup committee member Carolyn Thomas said she was outraged.

“Most playgroups are registered charities that may sometimes struggle to pay staff, insurance and rent,” she said.

“The government is aware of the vital part playgroups have in a child’s development, they are just not backing it up with funding. It needs addressing immediately before more playgroups collapse.”

The change has been made in a bid to address a budget flaw which has resulted in the council's youth service subsidising community groups by about £50,000 a year.