Suffolk County Council reduces tobacco investment but fails to commit to withdrawing entirely
PUBLISHED: 05:30 10 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:29 10 December 2018
A Suffolk authority promoting campaigns to stop smoking has reduced its pension investments in tobacco firms - but says it still will not disinvest in cigarette firms entirely.
Figures published for Suffolk County Council’s latest pension fund committee revealed British American Tobacco was the seventh highest investment for pension funds at £12.4million – down from £16m earlier in 2018.
But tobacco investments still totalled £25.7m in Suffolk – 0.9% of the total pension investments, albeit down by £3m from March.
But despite the reduction, it has been confirmed that it is still not policy not to invest in tobacco firms, despite figures showing smoking cost the county nearly £160m a year in sick days, NHS treatments and cigarette breaks.
Conservative councillor Andrew Reid, chairman of the Suffolk pension fund committee, said: “We have been previously advised to be mindful of our fiduciary duty to our members.
“This is why we employ fund managers to manage Suffolk pension fund on our behalf. It is at the discretion of those managers how the fund is invested.
“The pension fund committee is also mindful of its ethical duty and has previously taken legal advice.
“Taking into account this legal advice, performance data concerning relevant shares, market performance and the risks concerning the pension fund’s performance it has not been considered appropriate to instruct the fund’s investment managers to disinvest from tobacco.
“The Suffolk pension fund continues to monitor this on a regular basis.”
Labour’s Peter Gardiner said it was time the matter was put on the council’s agenda again and said: “They have to make sure they have the best return but more and more pension schemes do seem to be looking at it more carefully now.”
Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, said: “Many, many other councils are way ahead of us on this.
“People using tobacco cost the taxpayer money so why are we investing in something that costs us money?
“If we believe in something back it to the hill because there is a virtuous circle with investments.”
Royal Dutch Shell is the council’s highest investment at £27.1m.