A GRASS cutting firm, drafted in for £1.2million, received more than 400 complaints last year and has never hit annual targets in four years of working in Basildon.

However, Basildon Council leisure bosses say they are happy with Coventry-based English Landscapes, called in in 2010 when the Tory administration outsourced the service.

The firm has never hit its yearly targets, set by council officials. While complaints were down from 676 in 2012, there were still 421 residents with issues in 2013.

Despite the firm receiving criticism from opposition councillors and residents, the Tory council recently awarded it a new contract until 2016.

Tory councillor Kevin Blake, responsible for leisure and arts, said: “Bad weather hampered English Landscapes in reaching its targets, yet it has managed to improve every year since the beginning of the contract.”

Officers grade jobs carried out by the firm as A, B, C, or D, depending on the standard of the grass cut.

They inspect 20 cuts a day and demand 90 per cent are either A or B.

Out of 28 months, the firmhas only hit the monthly target eight times.

Nigel Smith, leader of the Labour opposition, said: “It’s the equivalent of employing a tradesman who consistently lets you down. It is extraordinary the firmhas been given a new contract with the amount of complaints I get from residents.”

The firm was hauled in by leisure bosses last year over under-performance, but standards have improved since then.

In 2010, the council handed English Landscapes a £1.2million deal until 2015. The council argued that outsourcing grass cutting had saved it £340,000 a year, with £1.4million saved over five years.

A spokesman for English Landscapes said: “The figures have no correlation with the quality of the service we offer, which we believe to be excellent value for money. We have no desire to participate in an ideological debate between political parties in Basildon.”

Councillors will debate the firm’s performance at a meeting next Wednesday.