A Norfolk council will be guarded by a private security team for the "foreseeable future" after a meeting was hijacked by a rowdy group of protestors. 

The acting clerk at Thetford Town Council has hired guards after making a 999 call during a meeting in April, which fell into disorder during a section dedicated to questions from the public.

This was taken over by a group of protestors, called Thetford Council Watch, who expressed their fury at the authority's recent decision to declare a "climate emergency" and commit £30,000 to spend tackling it.

Discussions then became increasingly heated as more and more questions were asked.

However, police officers did not attend the scene, and the clerk says private security is necessary in order to "safeguard" councillors at future meetings.

Two guards were first deployed at a meeting at the end of May, where their presence in the chamber further enraged Thetford Council Watch, who were again present and filming proceedings.

The group objected to the use of public funds to pay for the security and one member said he would "stop paying his council tax" in protest. Thetford & Brandon Times: A security guard watches as a member of Thetford Council Watch addresses the roomA security guard watches as a member of Thetford Council Watch addresses the room (Image: LSB Film Productions)



Thetford Council Watch, previously known as the Thetford Sovereign Council and before that the Thomas Paine Independents - after the town's most famous son whose writings influenced the American Revolution and the Enlightenment - commandeered a council meeting in April. 

They were angry at the council's recent decision to declare a "climate emergency" and commit £30,000 to spend tackling it, arguing there are better ways to spend the money in the town.

The campaign group, some of whose members previously sat as councillors, regularly attend council meetings to raise topics such as sex education in schools, transgender issues and the use of vaccines. 

The group say they are holding authority to account in the name of "freedom and common sense", and go to the meetings to express their views and scrutinise councillors.

Thetford & Brandon Times: A meeting of Thetford Council WatchA meeting of Thetford Council Watch (Image: LSB Film Productions)

At the stormy April meeting, one woman called the council a "panel of useless idiots" as the group refused to stop talking when asked to be silent. 

Members went on to ask councillors what they thought of "bedroom-department activities" being taught in schools, and children being exposed to "granddads in bondage gear for nought to four year olds" in bookshops and libraries.

This is thought to have been a reference to a book called Grandad's Pride, which was withdrawn by a Hull nursery school after parents complained about its portrayal of men in "leather fetish gear".

Police were called after repeated attempts by the chairman to bring order to the meeting, but officers did not attend, citing operational reasons. 

The meeting was suspended for nearly an hour before the protestors left, allowing it to resume.

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The security team has been hired by Alan Yorke, the acting clerk, in order to protect councillors from members of Thetford Council Watch.

They were spotted for the first time at a meeting of the council on May 28. 

Alan Fulbrook, a member of the group, asked at the meeting: "I see we've got private security now at a public meeting - who is funding this? 

"How much is it costing for a public meeting, in a public building, where the public ask questions, to have security?"

Mr Yorke said: "I have a duty as town clerk to safeguard my staff and I will take whatever steps I need to do that. I also have an obligation to safeguard my councillors, which is something I take very, very seriously.

"This is a step that I have to take because of the behaviour at the last meeting."

Mr Fulbrook responded that he would be "stopping his council tax" over the decision. 

The security is being funded through council reserves - but councillors declined to specify how much money would be spent. 

Terry Jermy, a member of the council who is the Labour candidate standing against Liz Truss in South West Norfolk at the General Election, said the guards would be in place for the "foreseeable future".