Council bosses will begin gathering evidence every time travellers pitch up illegally on public spaces in an effort to gain enough information to justify a tougher response.

Southend Council’s legal team advised last month there has been just 12 illegal incursions since April 2017 and a blanket ban proposed by the Conservatives would be disproportionate to the problem.

However, the Tories said at a meeting on Thursday night that there has been many more incursions than the number recorded and urged the council to piece together evidence from the past 18 months.

Tory leader Tony Cox said: “What I find quite disturbing is people in the administration or officers haven’t got the information required. We still maintain that it can be acquired and there are a significant number of incidents.”

Council leader Ian Gilbert said it was the Conservatives who were in charge when the information was not being collected and trying to retrospectively get it would be costly and fail to hold up in court.

He added: “The evidence we would need to gather to apply for an injunction would be statements of impact from the public, from social services and from public health.

“You need to look at welfare issues, you need to establish the incidents are not being caused by unmet need – that was in the advice given to council and you need to establish existing powers are not capable of remedying the problem.

“The fact is by and large the existing powers we have got when used properly are sufficient.

“But I can’t say that because that’s the situation now it won’t change in the future which is why I’ve given an undertaking that from now on everyone collects information systematically from all incidents of this nature.

"That way we can all know what we are experiencing and what further powers might be necessary.”