Climate protesters interrupted a council meeting by SINGING after councillors shot down their bid to get the city to bin its Barclays current account.

More than a dozen members of Extinction Rebellion packed the Oxford City Council chamber’s public gallery on Monday night.

Cllr Ed Turner explained, in response to a question calling for the council to stop banking with Barclays, that although he ‘sympathised’ with petitioner Dr Jennifer Stanton the City’s current account was not yet changing hands.

That prompted Dr Stanton’s supporters in the public gallery to get to their feet and unfurl a two-metre long banner that read: “Our council declared a climate emergency but still banks with Barclays.”

They erupted into song, chanting the words: “We’re here to say don’t bank with Barclays, find a better bank and do it today.”

The Lord Mayor, Cllr James Fry, attempted to reason with the group. Met with his pleas – ‘will you stop now? Stop now’ – the protesters restarted their tune, singing it as a round with the addition of some tuneful harmony.

They processed from the gallery, still carrying their banner and watched by two members of town hall security staff.

In her question, asked in the council chamber on Monday, Dr Stanton noted that Oxford City Council continued to bank with Barclays ‘four years’ after it declared a climate emergency. She described the bank as the ‘largest funder of fossil fuels in Europe’.

In response, deputy council leader Mr Turner said the city’s current account was previously with Co-op Bank.

“When that bank decided to withdraw from the local authority market, the council was forced to procure a replacement bank,” he said.

Of those that responded to the invitation to tender, Barclays scored ‘joint highest’ on ethical and social measures.

He said: “This is about our current account not our investments. We would obviously have welcomed a wider choice of bank, but there are limited banks willing to offer rates in the local authority current account market and council can’t function without a current account.”

The council took climate change ‘very seriously’ and ‘environment and social and governance matters’ were a topic of conversation at each meeting with its Barclays account manager.

Mr Turner added: “I have to be honest, I very much sympathise with the thrust of the question and we would welcome a wider choice of banks next time and of course environmental, social and ethical policies will be part of that procurement.”

Following the meeting, Dr Stanton noted that the councillors had heard from the mayor of war-torn Ukrainian city Kherson about the importance of being brave.

“I felt the respond didn’t show that bravery,” she told the Oxford Mail.

Oxford Mail: Dr Jennifer Stanton (centre, in colourful scarf) with fellow members of Extinction Rebellion in Oxford Town HallDr Jennifer Stanton (centre, in colourful scarf) with fellow members of Extinction Rebellion in Oxford Town Hall (Image: Oxford Mail)

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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