Community groups have threatened to walk away from a health action zone unless there is more community involvement.

East London voluntary groups and community health councils are due to hold a crisis meeting with East London and the City health authority in two weeks' time.

Three CHCs and three umbrella organisations have accused the HA of 'excluding the voluntary sector' from the HAZ, a key element of the government's strategy to improve the health of the poorest sections of society.

Each HAZ was offered£5.3m in the first year, with East London planning to improve job opportunities for 'disadvantaged young people'.

Janet Richardson, chief officer of City and Hackney CHC, said the HAZ was 'jargon-laden and dominated by the statutory sector', which had 'held meetings behind closed doors'.

East London and the City HAZ, covering 580,000 people, was one of the first zones announced last year. The HAZ executive board has only one community representative. The remaining 11 members are from acute and community trusts, local authorities, primary care groups and the HA.

Ms Richardson said the voluntary sector would present plans for 'an alternative HAZ' which would 'get it back on track' at the meeting in July.

Elizabeth Bayliss, director of the Tower Hamlets health strategy group, which represents voluntary organisations, said: 'For every pound the statutory sector puts into this, the local voluntary agencies estimate they can raise£12, so it is silly to write us off.'

But she said voluntary groups would 'carry on working with health services whether we are involved in the HAZ or not'.

Peter Coe, HA chief executive and HAZ chair, said it was 'worrying' that local communities were 'clearly not feeling involved'.

He said the HA was also seeking 'expressions of interest' for an independent review of the way the HAZ has been developed.

The HAZ's 'first priority' was to spend£9,000 on appointing six community development workers.

Jude Williams, HA director of health promotion and community involvement, blamed the row on 'a communication problem' and said the community's involvement with the HAZ hadn't been properly explained.