FORMAL complaints about street cleaning have almost doubled since private company Kier took over the contract.

But the council is pleased with the £600,000 saving it has made.

A total of 21 complaints have been lodged since the contract started in June, compared to 12 in the same period last year.

Most of the increase has been in Walthamstow, with five formal complaints in 2007 shooting up to 14 this year.

The numbers could be the tip of the iceberg, as the council was not able to say how many people had made informal complaints by contacting Waltham Forest Direct or other council departments.

The Guardian has received a steady stream of grumbles about the service, with people bemoaning the loss of their local street sweeper and saying their roads were not being cleaned as frequently as before.

This week a pensioner from College Gardens, Chingford, who did not want to give her name, said she had seen only one street sweeper in eight weeks “I phone every day about it because I won’t live with it,“ she said. “For a few years it has been good, we had two lovely men. They did a lovely job but they got the sack because they were agency people.

“Now it’s getting really bad. I spoke to someone at Kier and she said they knew there was a problem with north Chingford but they didn’t have the funding for it.”

And unions are considering action against the company for cutting back overtime and sacking staff.

Waltham Forest Council has admitted there have been “teething troubles” but cabinet member for environment, Cllr Bob Belam, did not think Kier was to blame.

He said: "It is clear that in the lead up to the new contract street sweeping and grounds maintenance services were not as good as they should have been.

“Kier, since taking over the contract, have retrained our staff and have put on extra resources at night and at the weekend to deal with this problem.

“Roads are now getting cleaner and residents will start noticing the difference.”

Cllr Belam said it was important to keep the increase in complaints in context as fewer than one in 10,000 had complained.