A Christmas tree ‘call-in’ to overturn a “mean-spirited” decision to end the free collection of trees after the festive season is due to be heard at Pembrokeshire’s County Hall next week.
At the November meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members backed a proposal to introduce a £5 charge for the collection of real Christmas trees after the festive season, previously identified as a potential cost saving of £10,000.
The council introduced a real Christmas tree collection service – backed by grant funding – in 2016.
That funding came to an end in 2020, with the council subsidising the cost, collecting more than 1,800 trees last year.
After making the decision to introduce the charge to save council funds, Cabinet members heard trees could still be disposed of free-of-charge at any of the council’s six waste and recycling centres.
A special extraordinary services overview and scrutiny committee meeting, taking place on November 20 is to consider a ‘call-in’ on the Cabinet decision, made by Councillor Huw Murphy, supported by councillors Vanessa Thomas, Anji Tinley, Alan Dennison, Elwyn Morse, Michael James and Iwan Ward.
In his submitted call-in, Cllr Murphy says: “This call-in has been submitted as it’s felt that the merits of introducing a fee for real Christmas tree collection by PCC needs further debate and scrutiny, which was absent at the Cabinet meeting.”
He adds: “This service most benefits lower income households, and its implementation gives the impression of an authority that is mean-spirited at a time of the year when we should be extending goodwill to our residents.”
He warns: “The inevitable consequence of the introduction of a tree collection fee will be more littering and fly tipping of Christmas trees by people who may have no means (transport) to dispose of at a waste recycling centre, where they can still be disposed of for free.
“This will result in more work and cost for PCC in collecting abandoned Christmas trees.”
Cllr Murphy also felt discarded trees may actually result in a danger post-Christmas: “There is an increased risk that Christmas trees previously collected for free may pose a hazard to road and highway users, through being ‘thrown out,’ more so for pedal and motor cyclists if they were to collide with a Christmas tree that has been blown onto a carriageway, especially in receding light or at night.
“There is a cost-of-living crisis, with households having to decide how money is spent. The £5 fee to PCC for collecting their Christmas tree will not be a priority post-December 25.”
He also debates the projected cost savings presented to Cabinet, warning there may actually be increased council costs “through the unintended consequence of this policy being introduced”.
Options for the committee include upholding the Cabinet decision, referring the matter back to Cabinet with any concerns raised, or referring the decision to full council.