MORE than £4,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on vandalism repairs in Witney in the last year.

Witney Town Council has had to divert cash from other projects to fix 21 separate cases of damage caused by yobs since May 2018.

The total of just over £4,000 was down on the £6,400 spent on repairs in 2017/18, but the council revealed reports of vandalism 'aren't getting any shorter'.

A spokesperson said: "Witney has a great community spirit. However, there's a small but determined minority who choose to ruin things for others.

"The council cannot afford to continue endlessly replacing and repairing at the expense of the council taxpayer.

"We would far rather spend money on enhancing our town’s existing facilities and investing in future projects to meet the needs of our growing town."

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The council's community services committee added: “At each meeting we receive a number of reports and sadly the vandalism report is one that isn’t getting any shorter.

"That being said, our works team are quick to respond and will always prioritise making areas safe to use."

Twelve incidents occurred in play and sports areas, four in bus shelters, three in cemeteries and one each at the Lake and Country Park and Lakeside allotments.

One of the biggest repairs was the £965.76 spent fixing the Burwell music stand when it was broken last June.

Newland bus shelter was targeted three times, ruining an art installation created by students at Abingdon and Witney College.

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Graffiti has since been scrawled on the shelter, adding £480 to the cost of the original refurbishment.

This is despite the council's risk management measures, such as installing 'robust and attractive' age appropriate equipment in play areas and repairing damage 'swiftly' to discourage copycat crime.

However, vandalism is down on the period from July 2014 to January 2015, when damage costing £10,410 prompted the council to write to the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Witney was hit by a spate of youth crime at the end of 2018, but the council said it 'acknowledges that not all acts of vandalism are perpetrated by young people'.

In February, 16 organisations from across Oxfordshire met for an 'urgent forum' at Witney Corn Exchange, aimed at returning sustainable youth services to the town. A follow-up meeting is set to take place later this month.

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Social enterprise Synolos was one of the groups invited and its CEO and founder, Barry Ingleton, believes vandalism should not be blamed entirely on young people.

He said: "The most important thing is that we don't victimise young people.

"We need to build bridges between younger and older people as vandalism happens when you don't care about the area you live.

"Young people are always going to rebel. We've got to keep calm and do what we can to engage with them."

If you witness vandalism taking place, call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.