Police officers were “hired” to protect a private business when travellers broke into a nearby derelict factory.

Roger Harrison, a town and district councillor for Eaton Socon, is demanding that Chief Constable Simon Parr publicly explains why, on the promise of paying overtime, officers were sent to patrol outside a private business.

He went to the site in Little End Road on September 14 after a group of travellers had forced their way into a property. He was there for several hours - along with town councillor Keith Prentice - and called for more of a police presence after finding just one sergeant at the scene.

Cllr Harrison said he was told the police were unable to provide extra resources.

But he later overheard an inspector instruct the sergeant to radio for two officers to take on overtime, to be paid for by a nearby business, which had requested a police presence.

While the force agreed to the payment, it stressed that no money was eventually charged.

Cllr Harrison said: "It's absolutely disgraceful - it's basically the taxpayer paying for a mercenary police force. I don't think it's good enough - at the end of the day they are there to protect the whole community.

"I'm going to be taking this up at district council level. I'm going to put in a demand that Simon Parr shows his face at the next full council meeting. It is my absolute intention to challenge him on this publicly."

Nick Church, chief inspector and staff officer to Mr Parr, told The Hunts Post: "On the evening of the travellers' arrival a request was made for a permanent policing presence to be allocated to the encampment overnight for community reassurance.

"This was not thought possible due to the other demands on the police during this period and the need to ensure police attendance to other incidents of risk and harm to the public. A private company did make the request to fund police overtime to ensure a permanent presence at the site incident.

"Following this, officers were allocated to conduct patrols around the area of the encampment for the overnight period. However, we are not aware of any charge being made to the company or community.

"It is not the intention of the constabulary to seek to charge for policing issues of community concern. However, with the current financial challenges to the police service, decisions on where to send officers and to do what, must be made on the actual threat and risk posed as well the perception of it. The provision of special policing services where policing services are directly charged for, is used for the policing of commercial and public events and there are no plans to seek the community to directly fund areas of core policing responsibility such as patrolling."

The travellers were on the site for one night. The property, which was also broken into and occupied by travellers for 15 days in April, has been earmarked for a 70-bed care home and 43 homes by developers Frontier Estates.