A north-east playgroup fears its days could be numbered after a “devastating” rent increase.
Aberdeenshire Council has hiked the rent for Kiddiwinks by more than 600%, leaving families worried about the future.
The group has been using the pavilion at Bogbeth Park in Kemnay since 2004.
The local authority have taken on the venue after it was previously run by a committee.
Kiddiwinks have launched a petition against the move and Kemnay Football Club have followed suit with their own online appeal.
Last year, north-east playgroups told how the pandemic had hit them hard financially and they appealed for help.
Manager Carolyn Harper, whose two granddaughters attended the group, said the increase in charges for the use of the pavilion could have a “potentially devastating” impact on the charity.
She said: “I was assured we would be paying much the same as before and then it transpired we do not have a lease but it is a hire agreement.
“We were paying £70 a month and now we are going to be paying about £500 every month because of this hourly charge.
“For a charity like us, it could be potentially devastating.”
Kiddiwinks looks after around 30 children aged between two and five.
A cap on numbers was introduced as part of Covid safety measures.
Aberdeenshire Council told the charity about the increase in a meeting, followed by a series of emails sent to bosses at Kiddiwinks.
‘We just do it for the children’
Mrs Harper said the rent hike, coupled with the extra work to mitigate Covid, has made it “tough” for the group.
She said: “It is disappointing, as it has been tough going keeping everybody safe.
“It has not been easy but we just do it for the children
“We are fighting all we can and we are looking to get a sustainability grant from the council but that would only be a one-off.
“We have not been able to do any of our traditional fundraising due to Covid.
“And we have not been able to have a parent helper so we have had to hire more staff.”
Online petition launched to highlight charity’s plight
The online document said that the move to “council control” meant they are now paying in a month what they used to shell out in a year.
It also warns of “huge financial implications” for the business and the building itself.
The petition said: “This is going to have huge financial implications for the group.
“We are the main service user of the building.
“If we were not using it, it would fall into a state of disrepair and possible vandalism.
“Kiddiwinks is a long-established group serving the village and the much wider community.
“We are a partner provider with Aberdeenshire Council, and cater for children from two to five years.
“Kiddiwinks provides a vital service to the community and if we were not there, then the future of our youngest children would suffer, and put extra pressure on the nurseries in the village.”
Council respond to rent increase concerns
A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “Aberdeenshire Council has applied the standard rental pricing policy which is in use across all council services to the users of Bogbeth Park Pavilion.
“We appreciate that long-standing users have enjoyed differential pricing dating back from when the facility was community-managed.
“However, we have to be consistent across all our facilities.”