Could county re-visit tobacco investment?

The new Leader of Suffolk County Council Colin Noble at Endeavour House in Ipswich after the electio

The new Leader of Suffolk County Council Colin Noble at Endeavour House in Ipswich after the election.

The new leader of Suffolk County Council is writing to its pensions’ committee to ask it to look again at its investment in tobacco companies.

Colin Noble’s move comes after it was pointed out that while the county’s public health department was warning about the dangers of teenagers smoking, the pension committee was watching its investment in tobacco firms increase from £33.5m in February to £33.6m now.

Earlier this year the committee, which administers the pensions of district and borough councils and other bodies as well as the county council, decided it could not ban investments in tobacco firms – even though a full meeting of the county council had voted in favour of such a ban.

A QC had warned the committee that a ban could lay it open to legal action if alternative shares did not perform as well as those in tobacco firms.

Mr Noble accepted that while it was clear that smoking was bad for health, especially for youngsters, the pension fund’s investment did leave its member authorities open to the accusation that they had double standards.

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He said: “In the light of this I shall be writing to the committee asking them to look again at the matter – the position of the council on this is quite clear.”

In February committee chair Peter Bellfield said that if it had rejected the advice, it could have laid itself open to a legal challenge from one of the employers who were part of the pension fund.

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However it did plan to look at the issue on at least an annual basis in future.

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