County council investment in tobacco companies more than £10m

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Written by:   | Posted 27-November-2014 8:57

Shire Hall chiefs will spend close to £1.5 million to help people quit smoking in Gloucestershire this year – while a council pension fund has over £10 million invested in tobacco companies.

The Gloucestershire Local Government Pension Fund counts the county council, district councils, colleges, schools and housing associations among its members and as of March 2014 the fund’s investments were worth £1.5 billion.

The fund has holdings worth £7.8 million with British American Tobacco and £2.7 million with Imperial Tobacco Group.

Matt Davis, from ShareAction, the movement for responsible investment, said: “Sadly, local authority pension fund schemes have not necessarily aligned their investments with the strategies of the local authority.

“Fortunately, increasing numbers of pension savers are calling on them to act more sensibly and coherently and there is legal clarification that shows people are empowered to do that.

“These stories are not going to go away and local authorities have a duty to take members’ concerns into account.”

The total value of the pension fund’s investments grew by £122million last year and it received an 8.9 per cent return on investments.

That significantly exceeded the average local authority fund return of 6.4 per cent.

Gloucestershire’s local authority pension fund is ninth in the top performing funds in the country, and has about 50,000 members. The county council is the single biggest contributor to the fund.

A spokesman for Gloucestershire County Council said: “Gloucestershire County Council doesn’t invest any of its money in tobacco companies.

“We administer the Gloucestershire Local Government Pension Fund, which invests money belonging to staff and pensioners from over 160 organisations, following advice from specialist professional investment managers. We are legally obliged to get the best return on that money to pay for these pensions. This is important, because taxpayers in Gloucestershire underwrite the scheme.”

The county council is spending an estimated £1.49 million on smoking related services in 2014/15.

This includes things like nicotine replacement therapy, a contribution to the Smokefree South West initiative and money for the Gloucestershire Stop Smoking Service.

Some of the cash will also be spent on Trading Standards efforts to reduce the sale of counterfeit/illegal tobacco products.

The Gloucestershire Local Government Pension Fund also has holdings with oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and BP, communication giants like BT and pharmaceutical companies like Astrazeneca.

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