MORE than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on travellers and gypsies across the district last year, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information request by Shipley MP Philip Davies shows Bradford Council spent £563,669 in 2013/14, three times the amount spent in 2009/10.

Bradford Council said the spike was down to the refurbishment of its two official traveller sites, in Esholt and Mary Street, off Bowling Back Lane, Bradford.

But Mr Davies (Con) accused the authority of getting its priorities wrong, by spending this cash while it planned to close facilities such as Bingley swimming pool.

He said: "My constituents will be horrified at a time when the Council are cutting essential services and claiming they have not got any money, they are finding hugely increased resources for gypsies and travellers. The vast majority of my constituents will think there are better things to spend the money on.

"The Council closed the public toilets in Shipley, have proposed closing the swimming pool in Bingley but have more than half a million pounds to spend on travellers. That money would easily have kept the toilets and swimming pool open which would benefit more people."

Councillor Val Slater, executive member for housing at the Council, said: "The figures are skewed by the fact that we did have to upgrade those sites.

"We have got a statutory responsibility to provide static accommodation in the district and having provided them, we have got a moral and statutory responsibility to make sure they are of a decent standard, which quite frankly ours weren't."

Cllr Slater warned against lumping together the travellers who used the local authority's static sites and others who set up illegal camps.

She said it would be wrong to "make assumptions that everybody from that community commits anti-social behaviour or is going around making illegal camps everywhere".

She added: "It is not right to say that people should live in sub-standard accommodation."

The Freedom of Information request also shows that the Council's gypsy liaison service brought in more money than it spent in 2013/14.

The overall income generated was £61,351 - mainly thanks to rent paid at the Council's traveller sites.