The row over Birmingham's refusal to help fund an Elan Valley community museum took a new twist last night when city council leader Mike Whitby suggested the matter was the responsibility of Severn Trent.

Coun Whitby (Con Har-borne) said he hoped the water company would make a "very generous donation" since it owned the pipeline which for more than a century has brought millions of gallons of water a year to Birmingham.

Elan Valley fund-raisers were told by the council that they would not be receiving a donation after they wrote to Coun Whitby asking for cash.

Earlier this week the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor John Hood, set up a public subscription campaign for the museum and made a contribution of #101 out of his own pocket, reflecting the 101 years that Birmingham has taken water from the Elan Valley.

Coun Whitby told yesterday's city council meeting: "I am pleased that the relationship between the Elan Valley and Birmingham is very sophisticated. We are supporting them. There is no doubt the citizens of Birmingham will support them."

His comments followed the visit to Birmingham of a delegation from the Elan Valley last week.

The delegation was entertained by the Lord Mayor, but an Elan Valley spokesman said afterwards: "It was clear that senior politicians in Birmingham didn't even know where their water came from."

Deputy Labour group leader Ian Ward called for a re-think, urging Coun Whitby to recognise the "debt owed by Birmingham" to the people of the Elan Valley.

Coun Ward (Lab Shard End), quoting a Birmingham Post editorial which referred to the refusal to fund the museum as a crass political misjudgement, said the museum fund-raisers had massive public sympathy.