Just when the government is making a big hoo-ha over its reduction of red tape for small businesses, I get a call from Peter Mistry, who wonders why Birmingham City Council has just decided to whop him with another £104 a year ‘duty of care’ charge on his waste collection bill.

 Peter pays £12.50 per container weekly, but says he got this letter out of the blue telling him that: “Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 places a Duty of Care on you as a business who produces, imports, transports or disposes of waste.” It goes on to say that to prove he has complied he has to be able to produce a Waste Transfer Note (WTN). When this waste transfer is a regular occurrence (such as when the council regularly picks up your rubbish) you can get a ‘season ticket’ WTN issued by the collector.

After rather a lot more blah-blah-blah, the council says it can no longer issue the ticket free, hence the charge. Peter got the bill the very next day.

I’m going to use this opportunity not to rubbish all the councils charging two quid a week to keep a document on file, but to warn you that, if approached by private waste collection companies offering to undercut said councils, have a very close look.

I’ve reported in the past about these operators: they’re dead cheap to start with and then, oh dear, they forgot to quote the percentage fee for landfill levy and the ‘pre-treatment admin charge’, not to mention the rollover contracts. I’ve had lots of reports of fees more than doubling.