HOUNSLOW'S new street cleaning regime was branded a 'disgrace' as councillors grilled managers about the service's troubled first five months.
Bosses of Hounslow Highways were hauled before the council's overview and scrutiny committee last Thursday following numerous complaints about the service.
Vinci Ringway began work in January on the 25-year, £800 million project to fix and maintain the borough's streets, but it has been plagued by accusations of poor communications, shoddy repairs and filthy streets.
Rob Gillespie, Hounslow Highways service manager, admitted it had been a 'challenging' start but insisted things were getting better.
He claimed staff had been playing catch up at first, with a backlog of works from 2012 to deal with and a dodgy inherited database of addresses playing havoc with mail-outs.
Despite this, he said, 24km of footways has been resurfaced in the last five months, three times as many as in the previous three years.
He also highlighted the findings of an independent survey by Keep Britain Tidy, showing litter levels had fallen by a quarter in the last year and were now below the national benchmark.
Evening street sweepers have also been introduced, working until 10.30pm, seven nights a week in high streets across the borough.
However, Labour councillor Mel Collins said: "The amount of litter on the streets is an absolute disgrace and I can't agree with you that it's getting any better.
"I've had some quite nasty letters from residents saying this new service, which was meant to clean up the borough, is now into its fifth month and there's absolutely no improvement."
Conservative councillor Peter Carey also let rip, accusing Hounslow Highways of doing a 'bloody awful' job of clearing weeds from the streets of Osterley.
Labour councillor Raj Bath complained that the new street lights, which Hounslow Highways claims have been shown to improve crime detection rates, are dimmer than the old ones and have left people feeling less secure after dark.
Council officers revealed the number of complaints about the service has tripled under Hounslow Highways, with 29 since January compared with 18 in the previous nine months.
In a bid to improve communication, the Hounslow Highways website is being revamped to include news flashes about upcoming work and details of its street cleaning programme.
Managers have also agreed to increase the number of streets where paving stones will be used instead of asphalt, following petitions by residents.
HOUNSLOW HIGHWAYS IN FIGURES
* 500 tonnes of salt used to grit icy roads
* 17km of roads and 24 km of footways replaced
* 1,030 new LED street lights installed
* 10,650 letters sent to homes and businesses in six weeks to end of May informing them of upcoming roadworks