LET'S take a little trip back in time, shall we? Let’s go all the way back to the balmy summer days of August 2015.

What happier times they were.

The world wasn’t gripped by a lethal pandemic, the Brexit referendum was still a year away and Warrington Borough Council had solved the problem of illegal traveller camps in the town.

What’s that you say? Traveller camps are still a problem? Surely not.

I mention August 2015 specifically, because that’s when it was announced that a budget of £2million of council money had been set aside to open a transit camp for travellers.

The then Conservative councillor Paul Kennedy, who was on the ‘planning for travellers’ task group, revealed that councillors had also decided where the traveller camp should be located the previous December.

Apparently, the location was ‘a closely guarded secret’ because of fears over the likely reaction of residents near to where it would open.

So just think about that. The decision about where the official Warrington traveller camp should go was actually made in 2014, almost six years ago.

And not only was the decision made, but the necessary money was actually allocated.

Things looked promising back then with a council spokesman saying: “The council does not currently have a designated transit site here in Warrington for travellers.

“We do have the appropriate response and support who work with the police and undertake welfare checks on any unauthorised encampments.

“The council will be considering the provision of a transit site for travellers through the work of a council members’ task group.”

This was almost six years ago, six years of doing absolutely nothing to solve the problem of illegal traveller camps.

And make no mistake, it is a problem.

I’ve worked at a number of offices across Warrington where travellers have decided to set up camp on nearby land and car parks. At one site, they broke into an unused office building and virtually trashed the place, causing thousands of pounds of damage. At another, they smashed off the inspection plates from street lights to tap into the electricity and shorted-out half a dozen businesses.

And at a third business park, they created their own ‘fountain’ by smashing a water main.

I’m pretty sure that anyone who has had an illegal camp near them will have their tales of mess, rubbish and anti-social behaviour.

Because Warrington doesn’t have an official site, travellers with a mind to spending some time in our town park up wherever they fancy.

The absence of an official site means moving them on becomes much more problematic, depending if the illegal site is on private or council-owned land.

But my question is why, given the money has been allocated for an official site, hasn’t anything been done yet? Just how long does the council need?

And that’s a question being posed by Conservative Warrington South MP Andy Carter who said: “With a £2million budget set aside, Warrington Borough Council need to stop dragging their heels and make a decision on the location of the transit site.

“Cheshire and Warrington need a joined-up strategy for dealing with illegal parks and I’ll be doing my bit come September when Parliament is sitting to change the current laws which prevent police from intervening quickly when situations arise.

“The vast majority of travellers are law-abiding citizens – but illegal sites often give an unfair, negative image of communities and cause distress and misery to those who live nearby.”

And the situation has also annoyed Liberal Democrat Appleton councillor Sharon Harris who said: “Both travellers and residents need to know that illegal encampments can be moved on and that the human rights of travellers can be provided for.

“A transit site would enable them to have access to water, electricity and other services that they would pay for.

“This is not just a Warrington South issue but a borough-wide issue. The [planning for travellers] task group has not met since October 25, 2018 and all potential sites that had been brought to the task group appear to have been discounted.

“I have lost count of the number of times I have asked for an update on progress. With elections coming up in May 2021, could this lack of progress be a cynical political tactic by the ruling Labour administration? Are they trying to ensure that a transit site does not end up in one of their wards?”

As cynical as it may seem, that’s exactly what I think is happening. The location of a permanent site is a political hot potato and appears to be one that the ruling Labour group doesn’t want to pick up for fear of getting their fingers burned at the next election.

Meanwhile, the town’s residents can expect an illegal site to pop up just about anywhere across the town.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the council did not wish to comment.