Preston Council has been accused of ‘Scrooge’ behaviour for charging families £5 for getting rid of Christmas trees.
Officers at the Town Hall have proposed the “nominal” charge for certain residents, but objectors say the new rules are not in the Christmas spirit.
Earlier this year, the authority introduced a charge for garden waste bins to be collected, and the new payment applies to anyone not in that scheme, or who doesn’t put their tree in the brown bin.
Preston Council is the only authority in the area to introduce the Christmas tree collection fee.
A report from the council’s environment director has been signed off by leader Coun Peter Rankin, and it is due to come into force next week.
Real trees of “average size” – up to six feet tall – will be collected between December 27 and January 31, with the fee agreed for next Christmas as well as this year.
But Coun Damien Moore, deputy leader of the council’s Conservative group, said: “It’s not really in the Christmas spirit.” He said: “We opposed what we termed the bin tax because we thought that was wrong.
“Given the fact Christmas only happens once a year, it’s a one-off collection.
“I think it would be in-keeping with the Christmas spirit if the council would remove the trees as a one-off.
“I don’t think that would be an issue at all.” He said he was worried the charge could have a “detrimental impact”, potentially leading to trees being “dumped”.
He said collecting trees as a one-off was “not too much to ask”, and said: “I don’t see people who have brown bins being upset about other people having trees picked up.” Council leader Peter Rankin described the timing of the decision as “unfortunate”, but said it was important people knew about the scheme.
He said: “We are just giving people the opportunity of if they want us to take the tree, they can contact us and we can do it.
“But it obviously costs to collect Christmas trees separately from green waste.”
He said people outside of the green waste scheme would be charged, and said: “It would cost us to make a special trip, and we have to charge them for that.
“It may be a little unfortunate just before Christmas, but I think it’s important people know this is available.
“We had to take this decision at this time, even though we will be actually collecting the Christmas trees after Christmas.
“It would have cost too much to have done it - we would have been weaving all over the city and it would have cost the council tax payer an awful lot of money.”
He said people without a brown bin who didn’t wish to pay could dispose of their tree in a “responsible way”.
Adrian Phillips, the council’s director of environment, said: “This is the first Christmas where the charge for garden waste collections has been in place.
“Over 18,000 households in Preston have chosen to have the garden waste collection service and for those people they will be unaffected.
“For those people who have chosen not to have a garden waste collection but would still like us to collect their tree, we have introduced a small nominal charge of £5 to collect and recycle the Christmas tree.
“There are many other ways to recycle Christmas trees from taking it to the household waste recycling centre at Tom Benson Way - to even composting, shredding and using for firewood.
“Our Christmas tree recycling collection service can been pre-booked at www.preston.gov.uk.”
A report from Mr Phillips said in previous years, Christmas trees had been collected as part of the garden waste scheme.
It said: “In areas which had garden waste collections, the trees were cut up and collected from the bins.
“In those areas, however, where there were no collection bins the council collected the unwanted real Christmas trees intact and no charges applied.
“Following the introduction of the green waste scheme in March 2016 only those residents who currently subscribe to the scheme have a collection option for unwanted real Christmas trees.”
It said other people may want their trees taken away and said: “A £5 charge will mean that residents who currently don’t subscribe to the garden waste scheme will have the option to pay for the collection of garden compostable waste in line with the charges that apply to all other garden waste, and those that have taken out a subscription are not paying for a service that others are currently receiving free of charge.”
The scheme will come into force on Thursday, unless it is called in.