“RABBLE” – the view of a Conservative councillor on protesters outside County Hall, Dorchester on Thursday evening.

The groups were there to protest about what they now see as Dorset Council’s hypocrisy on climate change; continued pension fund investments in fossil fuels; a proposed oil well near Puddletown and 4,000 homes likely to be put forward in the draft Local Plan for north of Dorchester. Among the protestors were a group of Christians concerned about the future of the planet, Churches Together.

Most there were in their 60s, some even older, many professional people, expressing concerns for the future of their children and grandchildren in a peaceful way.

A handful were drumming – not an illegal activity, although it could clearly be heard within the council chamber.

“I’m just disgusted at some of the people we represent, quite frankly” said Cllr Carole Jones to a round of applause and cries of ‘hear hear’ from the Conservative group.

Her opening remarks were: "I’m distressed to hear that rabble outside…we’re not here for that”, going on to mention the work she had been doing during the day with homeless people in the Sturminster Newton area where she is a ward councillor, claim that such actions were what councillors were elected to do.

Earlier opposition councillors, Lib Dems, Labour and Green, chatted amicably with the protesters as they arrived at County Hall for the evening meeting.

Only two Conservatives were seen to stop, both younger councillors, most walking briskly past the three police officers and five security staff into the building, almost the first time in living memory where there have been such security measures in place.

Extinction Rebellion local spokesperson Caz Dennett said that Dorset Council, which recognised a climate and ecological emergency three years ago, now had a conflicted stance after voting at its April meeting to ease the way for fossil fuels, wind power and nuclear, rather than rely on foreign energy imports.

She accused the council of a “triple whammy of broken promises” and of having missed almost every opportunity to constructively engage in reaching what she described as “life-saving” goals.

Re-elected council leader Spencer Flower made little mention of climate change in his acceptance speech although he said the council was “delivering on it” and the topic remained high on his agenda.

He was critical of consecutive Governments for starving the county of money to invest in its infrastructure and said a further meeting with the Secretary of State was expected in June.

Cllr Flower said that improving chances for young people, a larger affordable housing stock and further investment in adult and children’s social care were among his priorities, together with selling land and properties the council had no real need for.

Sherborne councillor Robin Legg later said it was easy to condemn people who protested – but said it reflected a growing disillusionment with politicians, reflected by low attendance at polls. He said the council needed to urgently reinvigorate local democracy.

“People feel impotent…in a choice between apathy and agitation some choose the latter,” he said, claiming that Climate Extinction activists might not be provoked to direct action if Conservatives on the Council had not demonstrated they were half-hearted about climate change.

In a statement issued on Friday morning Caz Dennett said: "Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are those that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.

Amongst the ‘rabble’ were town and parish councillors, clergy, teachers, NHS staff, carers, tradesmen, lawyers, IT consultants.

"If Cllr Jones thinks these hardworking people, who are merely seeking a liveable future for their families and communities are disgusting she is sadly disconnected from the realities of life. Perhaps some climate awareness training would help her. Something XR suggested to Dorset Council for all councillors in the days after they declared their climate and ecological emergency.

That offer still stands, and several Parish Councils have already taken it up."
Weymouth councillor Louie O'Leary said that he had left the meeting when Ms Dennett spoke: "I believe she and her group are endorsing illegal activities and feel she doesn't accept democracy. Until she does I will not be listening to her group," he said.