AN EDUCATION group running free computer courses for people in the Leys says it can’t afford a rent hike.

Leys Information Technology Zone (Litz) – formerly Blackbird Leys Information Technology Zone (Blitz) – currently rents a communal computer room in the Leys Community Centre in Blackbird Leys Road, Oxford.

But it has been told by Oxford City Council that because of the name change and other moves within the group, it is classed as a new tenant and a new rent agreement is needed.

Instead of paying £2,500 rent a year, the group, which runs drop-in sessions twice a week, says it may have to pay by the hour.

Council spokeswoman Louisa Dean said: “As a new organisation Litz needs a new lease agreement from the council.

“We would encourage them to continue these discussions.”

Litz director Nick Tills said: “The council is saying it could cost as much as £10 or £15 per hour. This would treble our expenditures and we just can’t afford that as a voluntary organisation.”

Based on Mr Tills figures, its current rent comes in at about £7.40 an hour.

The council would allow Litz to use the space but also allow other groups to rent the room and equipment throughout the week.

But Mr Tills, 52, said: “It would remove our autonomy, we wouldn’t be able to run our facilities the way we want to.”

Cllr Steve Curran, board member for youth and communities, said: “We want that space used by as many people as possible. There’s no reason why these organisations can’t work toge-ther.”

Ms Dean said the IT suite was only open to the public two days a week and was unavailable for other people to use the rest of the time. She added: “The council would like to have the suite open seven days a week to residents in the Leys, which would assist the Job Club, as well as providing opportunities to young people for homework clubs.”

But Mr Tills doubts whether any other groups will be able to afford the space.

He said: “We’ve approached places like Age UK and Oxfordshire Adult Learning in the past, but they can’t pay us.”

Ms Dean said other groups may also face the same changes in rent but they would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis Litz is primarily funded by grants, which in the past have come from the parish council and ward councillors, plus donations.

Mr Tills said increased rent costs may put it out of business, and added: “We’re thinking about applying to local businesses for support.

“It’s a real struggle.”