Work on Westminster trees 'barking'
Autumn is the time of year when leaves turn glorious shades of red and gold before gently falling to the ground - unless the trees are in the Palace of Westminster, where a gardener is paid to remove them by hand.
The House of Commons authorities defended the procedure, claiming it was more efficient than raking the leaves up once they have fallen.
But the move was branded "ludicrous" by critics who claimed the leaf-stripping would leave taxpayers "stumped".
The leaves were methodically removed from the lime trees in New Palace Yard as part of the routine upkeep of the House of Commons' grounds, a spokesman said.
"The House of Commons employs a gardening service which covers maintenance of more than 145 trees on the Parliamentary estate as well as all grassed areas, planted areas, indoor plants, containers and window boxes," the spokesman said.
"It is not possible to separate the cost of removing leaves from the trees in New Palace Yard from the wider cost of the gardening contract. The leaves are removed each winter as a more time-efficient alternative to raking fallen leaves."
Gardener Annabel Honeybun told The Daily Telegraph the work she carried out would help the trees keep their shape.
She said: "I am not picking leaves off the trees, I am cutting them individually down to the second bud so they keep their shape. I am doing some mini-pollarding but they do look nice after they have done.
"I wouldn't pick leaves off. These lime trees are so old and they have not been 'pleached' for years, so we have to keep their shape. We do it once a year. We are basically keeping them in the shape you see every summer. They have got quite shallow roots."
Andy Silvester, the Taxpayers' Alliance campaign director, said: "The Parliamentary Authorities will have stumped taxpayers with this bizarre decision.
"The authorities are barking up the wrong tree if this is their version of 'saving money' and we need to leave this kind of spending behind.
"What a ludicrous waste of hard-pressed taxpayers' cash - every penny counts, and every penny wasted has to be stamped out."