SWINDON will fork out nearly £250,000 in the coming year to tackle the town's growing graffiti problem.

But that is just a drop in the ocean compared with the £1m that it could cost to clean up just one area of the town.

Yesterday the Advertiser launched its graffiti hotline, where residents can leave information about the culprits.

And within hours numerous people had called to leave information.

All parts of the town are affected by tagging, which makes places look rundown and appear threatening.

The latest place to be ruined by vandals is the Old Town Bowl, which was covered with graffiti at the end of last week.

Swindon Council workers have now cleaned most of the paint off, but taxpayers will foot the bill - which could be as much as £1,000.

A council spokeswoman said the cost of cleaning graffiti ranged from £10 up into the hundreds.

"This year's budget for cleaning graffiti is £100,800," she said.

"The council also receives £40,000 through the Community Safety Partnership.

"And this year we will be spending an extra £100,000 on the problem."

In 2002 a council task group, chaired by Coun Justin Tomlinson (Con, Abbey Meads), estimated that it would cost approximately £1m to clear West Swindon of graffiti in one hit.

Two years later they introduced graffiti removal vans, which clear domestic properties of graffiti for free.

Coun Tomlinson said: "The free graffiti removal vans which, the Conservatives introduced in 2004 and have now further extended the service, is essential in combating this menace, and had proved extremely popular with local residents - even Tony Blair came to Swindon to try it out."

The extra £100,000 set aside in this year's budget will be used to buy two more graffiti clean-up vans and more mobile surveillance cameras.

If you have any information about who is responsible for graffiti in the town call the Adver's graffiti hotline on 01793 501880.

You do not have to give your name and all calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.