The cost of evicting travellers from illegal camps this year has surpassed the total from 2013 – despite being just seven months into the year.

The Argus can reveal that last year Brighton and Hove City Council applied for 21 county court possession orders to evict travellers at £280 each.

As of June 19, 2014 they had already filed for 20 this year – with others since.

In response a council spokesman said they aim to offer a “measured” and “proportionate” response to unauthorised encampments while scrupulously following the law.

However, critics say the council’s “soft touch” approach has led to more travellers than ever descending on the city.

Simon Kirby, MP for Brighton Kemptown, said the council must be quicker to act and work with police to be more effective to deter travellers.

He said: “It is the issue for which I receive more correspondence than anything else. The council’s soft approach has sent out a green light to the traveller community.”

The figures, which were released to The Argus following a Freedom of Information request, reveal the council applied for 13 possession orders in 2012, 21 in 2013 and 20 this year up to June 19.There have been at least two more since.

At £280 each, the total cost to the taxpayer each year is £3,640 for 2012, £5,880 for 2013 and £6,160 for this year so far.

The release also gives the location for which the possession orders were granted.

According to the figures the most popular site over the last three years is Wild Park with ten possession orders, second is Waterhall with nine and third Stanmer Park with six.

The number of court orders applied for does not necessarily equate to the total number of illegal encampments. Travellers can move on of their own will before a court order is sought and police can use their powers to evict.

Mr Kirby warned the cost of evicting travellers was far more than the county court costs.

He said: “It’s the cost of cleaning up after them and council and police time.

“It is also having a knock on affect on the image of the city. I’m not anti-traveller but it isn’t a scene you want to see on your tourism website. That could be a problem in the long run.”