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CWAC pension fund row over tobacco firms
A HEALTH Group has accused Cheshire West and Chester Council of supporting premature death after it was revealed more than £8million of employees’ money is being invested in tobacco companies.
The Council-administered Cheshire Pension Fund currently invests £3,394,500 in British American Tobacco, £2,887,847 in Phillip Morris International and almost £1million each in Altria Group Inc and Reynolds American Inc, a total of £8,156,564.
Following the figures revealed in a Freedom of information request, the chief executive of the Health Equalities Group in Cheshire, Robin Ireland, has urged the Council to withdraw such investment.
“It is disappointing to learn that the Council’s pension fund has such a large sum invested in tobacco companies,” he said.
“By allowing pension funds to be invested in tobacco firms they are supporting an industry that creates enormous social costs from sicknesses and long-term ill health through to premature death. All of which place a burden on the NHS.
“We urge Cheshire West and Chester Council, along with other local authorities, to take action to ensure that they are not investing in tobacco companies.”
The Council said, despite administering the Cheshire Pension Fund, the Fund is a separate body responsible for managing the Local Government Pension Scheme for their 140 employers and more than 75,000 members.
A Council spokesman said: “At the moment no restrictions are in place as to what can be invested in, they have a duty to achieve optimal returns for the Fund.
“It has a responsibility to all stakeholders in the Fund, including a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that it can pay the pension benefits due to these members. These payments are funded by contributions from members and employers and investment returns.
“As such the Fund’s £3.25bn of assets are deployed with a number of investment managers across a number of different asset classes in order that the required level of return can be generated to pay the benefits that arise.
“The Fund’s investment decisions are effectively delegated to experienced investment firms who make investments on behalf of the Fund within the parameters set by the Fund.”
Cheshire Pension Fund’s assets were £3.256 billion on June 30 this year, with the highest amount invested in Amazon.com, £35,587,554, Google, £27,265,060, and Ebay, £21,644,231.
Cheshire West and Chester councillor and Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Weaver Vale, Julia Tickridge, has called on the Council to make more ethical investments.
"As a councillor on Cheshire West and Chester Council, and a member of the pension fund myself, I do not feel comfortable that my local government pension will in part be financed on the back of the investment in tobacco and cigarettes, which are so harmful to health,” she said.
"I'd be interested to hear the views of other pension fund members and would encourage the Council to explore whether ethical investments can be made which would not adversely affect assets."
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