A COUNCILLOR has warned the cost of cleaning graffiti that has blighted neighbourhoods could deprive cash-strapped services of funds.

Oxford city councillor for Headington, Altaf Khan, spoke out after a reported surge in vandalised utility boxes, phone boxes and bus shelters in the area since April.

It costs Oxford City Council £13 to clean one square metre of graffiti plus £30 in labour – money which Mr Khan said was needed elsewhere.

He said: “It takes money away from other things so it could have been spent on services to help disabled people.

“There are elderly people who need services and there is a shortage of housing and night shelters. There are lots of causes that could have money spent on them.

“Whoever does this needs to think about that. Public money is spent on something silly when it could be spent on something else.”

Oxford City Council street cleaners removed graffiti from utility boxes and bus shelters during a deep clean of Headington at the start of July. But there is still some graffiti on private property, including a BT phone box in Kennett Road, which Mr Khan said had become “an eyesore”.

The councillor said a particular graffiti ‘tag’ was especially prevalent, with Hedley Way, Cuckoo Lane and Headington Hill being worst hit.

He said: “It looks like someone’s signature but it’s hard to make out what letter it is.

“They should come and clean it, it’s our city and we should look after it like it’s our home.

“We should not mess up our home and cause problems. It costs thousands of pounds for the council which could be spent on more worthwhile causes.”

Graffiti has plagued parts of Oxford this year with the city council removing 303 tags in two months since before middle of June – up from 237 tags in the same period in 2013.

In June Marston Parish Council chairman Martin Haynes said the graffiti problem was the worst in his 32 years on the council.

Mr Khan added that thought it would cost “thousands” to remove all graffiti tags in Headington.

A BT spokesman said it had no record of recent damage to the phone box but would make sure it was repaired and graffiti removed. Damaged payphones can be reported by calling BT on 151.