CONTRACTORS tasked with mowing roadside verges for Wiltshire Council have had their payments stopped until they get their act together.

“The service being provided isn’t good enough,” the council’s deputy leader John Thomson admitted to members in a briefing note.

Balfour Beatty Living Places has come under criticism since it was awarded a £150m five-year contract last year to maintain the county’s roads, cut the grass and repair street lights.

It has upset trade unions by refusing to negotiate with them on terms and conditions for staff it has taken on from the council.

And numerous readers have complained to the Journal about the unkempt state of the city’s verges.

Now councillors have been told the company’s performance |“has proved to be below the expected standard in a small number of areas including grass cutting”.

Cllr Thomson, who is the cabinet member responsible for highways, stated at last month’s full council meeting that if things did not improve, the council would take the matter further.

“Unfortunately there have been further issues recently, particularly with grass cutting in the west of the county,” said the briefing note.

“Therefore Wiltshire Council has set out measures such as withholding payment for the areas where grass cutting has fallen below the agreed standard and requiring detailed plans from BBLP which outline clear resource levels for each area of work.”

Cllr Thomson said: “We are determined to work with Balfour Beatty Living Places so standards are raised quickly.

“This is a resource level issue, and it is limited to certain areas of maintenance.

“BBLP performed well during the winter flooding, and we want this level of service across all the areas of work which the company is responsible for.”

A task group of councillors will be meeting next Wednesday to take a further look at the grass cutting section of the contract and the way it is being implemented.

A spokesman for Balfour Beatty Living Places said: “Unfortunately, despite allocating additional resources to grass cutting, we are still behind schedule in a small number of areas, most notably in West Wiltshire.

“We take any failure of delivery very seriously and have agreed with the council to a reduction of our charges for grass cutting in these areas.

“We are continuing to do everything we can to resolve the backlog of work and will continue to deploy additional resources until the situation has been resolved.

“We are confident that we will deliver good service and value for money for the people of Wiltshire.”