While March is not normally associated with the festive season, the number of waste Christmas trees collected by Pembrokeshire Council is to come under the spotlight this week.

Pembrokeshire County Council had previously run a free collection service for waste Christmas trees post-Christmas, but, in November senior councillors backed a £5 charge for the collection of real Christmas trees, previously identified as a potential cost saving of £10,000.

The council introduced a free Christmas tree collection service – backed by grant funding – in 2016, subsiding the cost when funding ended in 2020.

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.

After the charge was introduced a special ‘Christmas tree call-in’ meeting was held later that month, following a request made by Councillor Huw Murphy, supported by councillors Vanessa Thomas, Anji Tinley, Alan Dennison, Elwyn Morse, Michael James and Iwan Ward.

Cllr Murphy called for the matter to be referred to the December full council in the hopes the charge could be overturned, saying it was “possibly the cheapest we provide,” warning: “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.”

However, his call-in, labelled by opponents as “frivolous, or even vexatious,” was defeated by nine votes to four, meaning the £5 charge remains.

In a submitted question to be heard at the March 7 meeting of full council, Councillor Huw Murphy will ask: “Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet on November 6, 2023, approved a decision to cease what had previously been a successful free Christmas Tree collection service and introduced a fee of £5 per tree collection charge ‘to ensure cost recovery of collection costs’.

“The decision to introduce a £5 fee to collect Christmas Trees was subject of an unsuccessful call-in to the Services O&S Committee held on November 20.

“Could council be now provided with the number of Christmas Trees collected in December 2023 and January 2024 following the introduction of the £5 collection fee?”

The March 7 meeting will also see the county council’s budget set, with a recommended council tax increase of 16.3 per cent.