The private firm responsible for roads maintenance, grass cutting and litter picking has lost more than £1 million in the first three months of its contract with Wiltshire Council.

Now Balfour Beatty Living Places, already dogged by complaints of poor performance, is to make admin staff and supervisors working on the Wiltshire contract redundant and transfer workers away from road maintenance to grass cutting and litter picking, where they earn less.

The firm, which took up the contract with Wiltshire Council in June, called staff to a series of meetings at the New Inn in Coate, near Devizes, on Friday.

Contract manager Leon Jolly told staff the firm has made a loss of more than £1million on the contract so far. He revealed plans for seven voluntary redundancies among supervision and admin staff at depots across the county.

The firm is also planning to move 18 staff members from its routine maintenance teams, which handle road repairs, to the ‘community team’, which deals with grass cutting and litter picking.

The move has been criticised by the GMB Union, which represents highways workers. Carole Vallelly, GMB organising officer for Wiltshire said: “The whole thing has been an absolute fiasco. They put in a low bid, knowing they couldn’t deliver it for what they bid, so what they are now trying to do is reduce staff levels.

“It’s definitely not good news for Wiltshire; potholes can be potentially fatal, as can icy roads; these are the last areas that should be cut.

“We’re talking about routine maintenance, which I would think is very much front-line staff.”

But Coun John Thomson, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for Highways, is still backing the beleaguered firm.

He said: “We are not looking to terminate the contract. I don’t think that sort of approach is appropriate if you are trying to build a long-term relationship with the company. We have made difficult decisions if people haven’t delivered and taken contracts away, but I can’t see that happening. They are a big multinational company, they will get it right.”

A spokesman for Balfour Beatty refused to answer questions on why the firm had lost £1 million or whether it had bid too low to win the contract.

They would only refer the Gazette to this statement: “When Balfour Beatty took over the Wiltshire Council Highways contract in June it involved bringing employees from three different organisations together. In these circumstances it is very difficult to assess the requirements of the combined operation.

“It was always envisaged that there would be a need to right-size the organisation in terms of numbers and skills. Therefore, during the initial three-month period, we have assessed this requirement in line with the contract.

“As a consequence 27 roles have been identified as no longer required and we are consulting with these employees and their trade union representatives, as we will be endeavouring to offer them either voluntary redundancy or alternative employment within the contract.

“The aim is to continue to improve services wh