A street cleaner is back by popular demand after outraged residents of Meriden Estate argued his manpower was superior to the machine that replaced him.

Michael Capicotto was praised by residents for doing a superb job in keeping their streets litter free. They were furious when Watford Council announced he was to be replaced by a road-sweeping vehicle in July.

Joyce Hunt, of Meriden Way, said Mr Capicotto's broom and barrow were more efficient than the road-sweeping vehicle he had been replaced with.

She said the cleaner took pride in the appearance of the neighbourhood. He reached nooks and crannies which the machine failed to do so.

Mrs Hunt added that Mr Capicotto was dearly missed by residents when the council moved him to Bushey Mill Lane in north Watford.

She said: "I am very pleased that we have got him back, although I am fearful that it will not be for long."

David Cox, from the Meriden Residents Association, said: "Before Michael came along to the estate, the area was a mess, particularly on a Monday.

"We have got a fish and chip shop, Indian takeaway, cafe, bakery, post office and a news agent, so there is a lot of rubbish floating around.

"It builds up over the weekend because their is nobody cleaning it up, so on Monday morning the area looks like Beirut. At 9am, Michael would come along and by 11am it would be spotless."

He added the residents association was in the process of setting-up a petition to keep Mr Capicotto as a permanent cleaner, and had collected 100 signatures, with a lot more to come.

Meriden Ward Cllr Norman Tyrwhitt said: "On behalf of all three Meriden councillors, I can say that we have been very pleased by the cleaner's service. We feel that a machine does not give the level of cleanliness."

Meriden Ward Cllr Geoff O'Connell, echoed his views. He said: "I am pleased about the cleaner's return. I am happy to see an actual person doing a proper job rather than another machine."

[Posted online on Watford Observer website on September 5, 2001]

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