Security was called in for surgeries at Portland Town Council after tensions rose over plans to house asylum seekers on a barge at Portland Port.

Two security guards were on the door for surgeries at Portland Library in Easton on Saturday August 5.

A town councillor described the introduction of security measures as 'sad' and 'disheartening'.

A number of councillors and businesses have been sent "abusive" letters, threatening them if they work with the Bibby Stockholm barge.

The Independent Group on Portland Town Council hosts surgeries once a month at the library, for councillors to speak to residents and hear any of their concerns.

Sheila Miles, a town councillor and member of the Independent Group of Councillors, said: "We hold surgeries every second Saturday at the library and Beehive cafe.

"We have been advised to have security on the door for when we hold our surgeries at the library at Easton.

"It is crazy. I am sad for this island.

"It is often from a group of people who start every sentence with 'I am not racist but..', they have stirred up so much anger and hatred and it makes me sad.

"Nobody wants the barge for hundreds of different reasons.

"People don't understand, the only difference that Portland Town Council has to a parish council is that we have a Mayor, other than that, we have the same authority as a parish council.

"When people think of a Parish Council they think of little old ladies having tea and doing some knitting.

"We deal with public toilets and park benches, we can't stop the barge, we don't want it here but we do not have that kind of authority.

"What has Portland been reduced to? It is sad and it is disheartening."

The security was brought into the meetings after councillors completed a risk assessment of their engagements at the library.

Following these risk assessments, Dorset Council's Library and engagement customer and cultural services arranged for security to be present for the surgeries.

Security presence has also been brought in for Portland Town Council meetings after members of the public began attending in an attempt to raise issues surrounding the barge.

Pete Roper, Independent Portland Town Councillor and former Mayor of Portland said: "Security was provided by Dorset Council after it was raised in a risk assessment.

"Since the library is Dorset Council premises, they arranged for security to be present at those surgeries, but they did not give us a reason.

"Obviously it is relating to concerns about various groups opposing the Bibby Stockholm, it is no specific group just a general safety issue.

"Because of the divisive nature of this policy, it is having an increasingly divisive effect on the people of Portland as a whole.

"We have had anger taken out on town councillors, phone calls, public participation at council meetings showing up in large numbers.

"It is not something I ever thought I would encounter in local politics."