Councillors have criticised the government for failing to provide funding to tackle illegal encampments.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) are looking at 80 sites to permanently place travellers as works continue to protect land from repeated traveller incursions following a summer of unauthorised encampments.

At last night's (November 14) housing, neighbourhoods and leisure committee, the council agreed to continue gating and fencing works at a number of sites to keep out travellers.

The council has spent a total of around £204,000 on dealing with illegal encampments in the last year and a half.

Councillor Rachel Eden, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Reading West, said: We always talk about how the council is stretched but my experience is that the police are now so stretched that they do not have the time to tackle criminal behaviour.

“When people are breaking the law, whoever they are, we need to know that the police have got the resources they need.

“We cannot keep our communities safe on the cheap. We need to have enough police officers. That is when we will see a real difference being made.”

Gating and fencing at 13 sites cost £104,000 in the 2017/18 financial year.

A further £72,446 was spent on clean-ups and legal and bailiff costs.

Since April this year, the council has spent £28,800 on works at repeatedly encamped land including Portman Road, Walnut Way and Pottery Road.

Conservative councillor Jane Stanford-Beale said: “We need to find an appropriate site where the travellers can go. We have not been making dramatic progress.

“There is a concern among residents that they are allowed to go around breaking the law. “

Councillor Sophia James, lead member for Neighbourhoods, said: “Action is being taken. That process simply takes time to work.

“Some people are very smart, using a variety of different methods. We have had to become more and more creative. We could use some help from the government.”

RBC are looking for a permanent site for travellers and previously considered land at Richfield Avenue, where a secondary school is now expected to be built instead.

Alok Sharma, Reading West MP, launched a petition in June to make trespass a criminal offence following a series of illegal encampments in Reading and West Berkshire.