Communities Secretary Eric Pickles: Birmingham Council shouldn’t ask about sexuality in its questionnaire on wheelie bins

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has criticised Birmingham Council for asking people to declare their sexuality in a survey about rubbish and wheelie bins.

The Conservative cabinet minister, who voted for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, accused the council of ignoring reminders from his department by asking residents to fill out “intrusive” surveys.

He said: “We’ve repeatedly written to councils to remind them that local residents shouldn’t be asked to fill out intrusive questionnaires about their sexuality, religion and other personal details just because they’ve enquired about getting their bins emptied or joining a local library.

“Birmingham Council have repeatedly ignored this advice despite statutory guidance from DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) which states that this is simply not necessary.”

The council said: “The questions are standard demographic questions and respondents have the option not to respond.”

Last December, local government officials in Greater Manchester were forced to defend a transport public consultation document that asked respondents to identity their race, sexuality and gender, after complaints of it being intrusive.

Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) were introduced by the previous Labour government to make sure officials took account of disability, gender, sexual orientation and race in their decisions.

However, last November, during a speech to the CBI, David Cameron revealed that he wanted to abolish the requirements.

“We have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making the policy. We don’t need all this extra tick-box stuff,” the prime minister said.