Suffolk: County to retain tobacco investment despite anger from ASH

SUFFOLK is set to retain its pension fund’s multi-million pound investment in tobacco companies, despite concerns that the move conflicts with its aims of creating a healthier county.

The county council’s pension fund currently has �43.2 million invested in tobacco companies, the second highest figure in the region.

The Suffolk pension fund is administered by the county council and the majority of its members are past or current employees of that authority – but it looks after the pensions of about 80 organisations, including borough and district councils, parishes and town councils, and some academies.

A spokesman for the county council said the aim of the committee which oversaw the pension fund was to maximise the return on the investment.

He said that if it did not maximise its investment, the council could have to increase the amount it contributed to the fund.

However Martin Dockrell from anti-smoking pressure group ASH said it made both economic and ethical sense to avoid investing in tobacco companies.

“Next year a number of staff from the health service, whose pension fund does not invest in tobacco companies, are being transferred to county councils and I know many of those who have been involved in campaigns against smoking for decades are very unhappy that some of their money will be invested in these firms,” he said.

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Peter Bellfield, chairman of the Suffolk Pension Fund Committee, said: “One of the requirements placed on the Suffolk Pension Fund is to make a return on investment to ensure that we have the funds to meet future pension liabilities.

“We do acknowledge the issues around public health however, ultimately, restricting choice for the fund managers limits their abilities to do their jobs. Suffolk’s approach is entirely in line with many other areas around the UK.”