Climate campaigners have called for the county’s pension fund to be cleaned up.

Extinction Rebellion wants the fund, which looks after thousands of former council, schools and other public sector employees, to take its money out of anything to do with fossil fuels.

Campaigners were on the steps of County Hall as pension committee members arrived and later addressed the meeting.

A similar protest was held last year when two local doctors asked the committee to take a similar investment stand.

Dorchester councillor, Andy Canning, who chairs the pension panel, spoke to the campaigners before the meeting. He says the fund is currently reviewing its investment strategy and have asked specialist advisors to see if more could be invested in a ‘green’ way without affecting the viability of the fund.

Retired Dorchester teacher Irene Statham told the committee, on behalf of Extinction Rebellion, that now was a good time to disinvest from fossil fuels and asked for commitments to do so, with target dates. She said it was likely to find favour with most of the public.

“We argue strongly that the clear intention must be to divest from the fossil fuel industry as soon as possible and to progressively divest from carbon-intensive industries and reinvest in low-carbon or renewable industries. Pension funds are very exposed but also very powerful. Collectively the country’s pension funds have £3,000 invested in the fossil fuel industry for every pension fund member. Dorset has £141M invested. These amounts make a difference,” she said.

Cllr Canning said that although the £141m figure was not one which the fund recognised, the committee hoped to have a full report on options at its June meeting:  “Both Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council have declared a Climate Emergency and we have asked that our advisor should take this into account when making their recommendations.

"This should include options to allow us to move to a low carbon future including an assessment of whether it is possible, practical and legal to move to a policy of zero investment in fossil fuel companies and, if so, how long this would take to enact.

"As part of this we will consider divesting from the fossil fuel industry and how far we can go that is consistent with our statutory and non-statutory duties and responsibilities.

“Our local councils are committed to tackling climate change and it is only right that we should look again at how we manage our Pension Fund investments.

"As part of this process we will be getting expert independent advice as well as hearing from concerned local residents and groups, such as Extinction Rebellion. We are listening and will take into account these concerns when we agree our strategy.”