A pensioner has been threatened with eviction after complaints from neighbours about an overgrown tree in the front garden of his council house.

Widower Brian Smithers, 73, has been living in Potters Grove, New Malden, for 30 years but Kingston Council say it his responsibility to deal with the large tree.

Mr Smithers, who lives alone after his wife died two years ago, said: “They want me to chop it down but I said no because it’s their tree. They are trying to evict me. I am a pensioner.

“The tree was here when I moved in. It is leaning quite badly and the roots look like a lot of snakes but they want me to pay for it. But it is their tree they have got to deal with it.”

A letter from Kingston Council’s housing management team, read: “You must pay urgent attention to these matters now.

“If you are unable to manage the gardens and find it too much, perhaps you might consider moving to a property without a garden so you no longer have this burden.

“If the tree has not been dealt with and the garden at the rear and front cut down so that it is tidy and well cared for as it should be, then I will have no other option but to serve you with a notice of seeking possession and you might lose your home as a result.”

New Malden councillor Terry Paton said: “I am just horrified. I think we should be looking to help someone so vulnerable rather than threatening them.

“The poor guy has just lost his wife and does not need to be treated like that. I feel a lot of sympathy.”

A Kingston Council spokesman said it had received complaints from neighbours and it was part of Mr Smithers’ tenancy agreement to keep the garden clean.

He said: “We are concerned that Mr Smithers, an elderly tenant, may be finding managing the gardens which are his responsibility too much of a burden.

“We will deal with the tree, and we are trying to discuss with Mr Smithers the possibility of him moving to a home without gardens to look after. He wasn’t at home last week when a housing officer called for an arranged appointment.”