Birmingham families could have been spared the city’s controversial “garden tax”, a top Tory has claimed.
Government minister Brandon Lewis said the Labour-run city council never asked for cash to maintain its free grass cuttings collection service.
Instead, gardeners face paying £35 a year for the privilege of having their green rubbish collected from next spring. Anyone unwilling to pay up will have to dispose of it themselves.
Mr Lewis, a minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, branded the charge a “tax grab” which would increase the risk of households simply fly-tipping their garden rubbish.
In a letter to Birmingham Tories opposed to the charge, he wrote: “Birmingham City Council did not request any funding to keep free garden waste collections, though it could have done.
“While the Government does not intervene in local decision-making, it is most disappointing to see the council introduce this annual charge for collection of garden waste.
“It is a ‘tax grab’ and increases the risks of fly-tipping in neighbourhoods. Birmingham residents already pay their council tax and should not have to pay extra for this service.”
Mr Lewis said the council should have bid to keep the service free, and boost recycling, when it successfully applied for £30 million to fund the introduction of wheelie bins, which are now on trial.
But Labour’s rubbish collection boss, Coun James McKay (Harborne), said the wheelie bin bid was made last summer, months before it became clear a green waste charge would be needed.
He said: “The bid was submitted before the severity of cuts imposed by the government on the council was made clear. To ensure we continue to provide essential services, we have had to examine what services the council can continue to offer, in consultation with residents.
“No area of the council’s services is immune from this.”