Below is a summary of some parts of the contentious council meeting on 12th May where DorsetCAN asked a question about the Chair's refusal to allow a debate on a motion about energy security and fossil fuels.
You can see a video of the meeting here and a report by journalist Trevor Bevins on Planet Radio here.
Dorset CAN's summary:
There was a lively discussion with lots of noise outside from XR and a steel band while inside there was passion, insults, ineptitude, growling and some very decent speeches. Local democracy in action in all its tenuous glory.
The main debate related to the previous council meeting on 14th April and conflated three different issues together causing unnecessary confusion and providing plenty of wiggle room for the conservatives to dodge the main questions. The first issue was whether to condemn the actions of the two protestors. The second was whether Madame Chair (Val Pothecary) had made the right (democratic) decision to stop all debate and go straight to a vote and the third, the most important, was about why the energy security motion was passed even though it was in clear contradiction to the IPCC and DC’s own Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy.
The first issue was the subject a tabled motion. The Lib Dems/Green immediately tabled an amendment which was more conciliatory and would have toned down the wording to “regret” for the actions of the two protestors - but this was rejected and the original motion passed.
The second issue, on whether Madame Chair had acted democratically was debated hard along with the third issue on the climate impacts of increasing fossil fuel extraction etc. The second issue was the key point in our two questions. The conservatives did not like being told they were acting undemocratically and started barracking Giles Watts (who asked the question for DorsetCAN) - the barracking was led by the Councillors O’Leary and Lacey-Clarke - before the questions had even been asked. The reply from Val Pothecary was fairly predictable. First,s he admonished us for merely “noting” the actions of the protestors (rather than condemning them) and then went on to justify her actions as protecting the safety of the councillors.
It was a long and fairly brutal debate with excellent speeches by Caz Dennett, Cllr Belinda Bawden, Cllr Heatley and others from the Lib Dem and Green camps – with some reasonable speeches from a few conservatives, notably Ray Bryan. Sadly the debate was mainly on party pollitcial lines with some pretty gross political arse-licking at times. Luckily there were also some patient and thoughtful speeches by people who reminded us all that Climate issues are of major importance to us all, that we must all try to listen to the electorate (even when we don’t like what they say) and that historically direct action has its natural place in society when democracy is not working well (e.g. Suffragettes and Black Lives Matter)
It is unclear why the motion on energy security was put forward in the first place and why the conservatives were so keen to hold a vote immediately after the protest rather than delaying until later – which would have been much more “democratic”. Interestingly, it was admitted during the debate that immediately after the vote on 14th April, a letter had been sent to Greg Hands (Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth of the United Kingdom) saying that Dorset Council was completely supportive of the government’s Energy Strategy. It would be good to see the text of this letter to Greg Hands (there is no record of it on the Dorset Council web site).