At the meeting, Cllr Tim Harries warned about what he said could be unsubstantiated claims about an increasing problem.

He said phrases like ‘steady increase’ and ‘growing number of late night incidents’ being used by residents might not be substantiated.

“I can go back thirty or forty years when Dorchester was a great deal noisier and livelier…I challenge whether there is a growing number of incidents.” he said, to cries from residents at the meeting that they were the evidence of the problem.

Residents said issues of anti-social behaviour were making life a misery at a heated town council meeting.

Cllr Richard Biggs said he had no doubt about the level of the problems having had five attacks on family cars together with other incidents of vandalism around his town centre home.

“But don’t bother gong to the police because they won’t come unless someone of being physically attacked…we now have a reactive police force, not a proactive police force because budgets have been cut under this Government.”

He said that any licences beyond 2am were not acceptable: “This needs a combined effort from everyone. There has to be some sort of compromise.”

Cllr Gerald Duke suggested finding the funding to pay for extra police officers in the town centre, although he admitted he was unsure how that might work. He said several universities already paid for guaranteed patrols at their campuses.

“Policing is the major problem, or rather, a lack of it.” he said.

Committee chairman Robin Potter said there appeared to be ‘a discrepancy’ between what residents were claiming and what environmental health officers at West Dorset District Council had found.

“It seems we need to go back to them and ask again,” he said.

Cllr Andy Canning said the problem appeared not to be with pubs and bars but with a lack of policing: “They don’t seem to perceive it to be a serious enough problem.”

He called on local MP, Sir Oiver Letwin, to lobby for improved funding for the police

He said trying to enforce a blanket 11pm closure of bars would not be legal.

Mayor Cllr David Taylor said a group had been set up with the police to look at the issues: “Officers have started to look how we can nip it in the bud and stop it. They are trying to do a difficult job with what they’ve got.”