Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned he may take legal action if the council does not row back on forthcoming changes to bin collections.

The mayor has written to Barnet Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius asking for the decision so scrap separate food waste collections, made at the environment committee on June 5, to be put on hold.

He warned that if the council does not do so, he could use the Greater London Authority (GLA) Act as a “last resort” to force the council to take action.

Mr Khan suggested scrapping the separate collections for food waste was at odds with the London Environment Strategy.

Responding to a written question by London Assembly member Caroline Russell on June 21, he said: “I am concerned about the impact on recycling performance from Barnet’s decision to stop separate household food collections.

“I do possess, through the GLA Act, the backstop power to direct authorities, where I consider it necessary for the purposes of implementing the municipal waste provisions of the London Environment Strategy.

“Moreover, waste authorities have a duty under that act to undertake their waste responsibilities in such a way as to be in general conformity with the strategy.”

The council claims scrapping the separate collections – which was not in the Conservatives’ manifesto – will save £300,000 through the redeployment of agency staff.

But the Labour Group said the council had admitted the decision will reduce the overall recycling rate and add 5,000 tonnes a year to general waste disposal at £89.17 per tonne – adding £445,850 to the North London Waste Authority levy.

Labour said food waste collected separately costs £31.39 per tonne to dispose of through anaerobic digestion.

Barnet Council currently recycles around 37 per cent of all waste, with a target to recycle 50 per cent by 2025.

Labour’s environment spokesperson Cllr Alan Schneiderman said: “Before the election the Tories said that they would make it easier to recycle food waste and just weeks after the election they are planning to scrap separate food waste collections.

“This Tory plan is bad for the environment, will cut the council’s recycling rate and will actually increase waste disposal costs. It’s good news that the mayor of London has called for this rubbish plan to be suspended.”

Leader of Barnet Council Cllr Richard Cornelius, said: “We note the comments by the mayor of London regarding his power to direct.

“There was, however, no mention that these powers of direction can only be exercised when compliance by an authority with the requirements does not impose excessive additional cost.

“We believe that the Mayor’s desire for Barnet to keep a separate food waste service would result in an excessive additional cost of £296,766 a year.

“Barnet’s recycling performance is already making a meaningful contribution to the London Environment Strategy target of 50 per cent recycling by 2025, as Barnet is within the top third recycling London authorities.

“We have paused the cessation of the food waste service for six weeks, following a request from the Mayor. We will be discussing the issues, and how those services he wishes London Boroughs to deliver will be sustainably funded.”