A LOLLIPOP lady who has put on festive fancy dress for the past 20 years has been banned from spreading Christmas cheer by Scrooge-like council chiefs.

Margaret Russell was told she can no longer bring seasonal joy to scores of youngsters because it is a health and safety risk.

Parents and councillors have joined to attack the move branding it "political correctness gone mad".

The popular 54-year-old grandmother has delighted pupils, their parents and passing motorists in Millbrook for two decades with her fun, festive costumes to raise money for charity.

In previous years she has helped children cross the road dressed as a turkey, reindeer, a star and even a Christmas tree.

But following a complaint by two parents, the council said she could not dress up anymore.

Her boss volunteered to cover her for one day allowing her to dress up yesterday.

Margaret, of Chiltern Green, Millbrook, who is collecting for the Mayor of Southampton's appeal fund, said: "I'm a bit disappointed and I think there will be a lot of people who miss my costumes as well. I'm not going to spend nearly two months making a costume if I can only wear it for one day. They cost about £25 and it's just not worth it. It's political red tape."

Over the years Margaret has raised thousands of pounds for charity but is not expecting to raise as much this year in her normal uniform.

She added: "I can see the council's point but it makes you think why now after I've been doing this for 20 years. It just seems a bit daft."

This year's home-made costume, a large golden bell, took Margaret a month to make and was designed so she could give herself a big send off after 20 years of fundraising.

A spokeswoman for Southampton City Council said: "Mrs Russell could not have carried out her usual crossing duties because she wasn't wearing her reflective clothing which is against the law.

"If a crossing patrol supervisor does not wear a reflective jacket they are not insured and if hit, the motorist could not be prosecuted. However, in the true spirit of Christmas we have made every effort to ensure Mrs Russell raises funds for charity again this year."

Mum of one Sandy McCarthy, a PA at Southampton General Hospital, said: "It's absolutely terrible. We've been living here for about ten years and she's made a new costume every year. It's political correctness gone mad."

Millbrook ward councillor Ceren Davis said Margaret should be allowed to wear her festive gear.

She said: "It seems these days that the council is frightened of people suing them. If nothing has happened over the years why would it happen now?"