Shire Hall pension investment in tobacco raises moral questions
MORAL questions have been raised after Shire Hall bosses revealed £11 million of its pension fund was invested in tobacco companies.
The disclosure comes just months before Gloucestershire County Council is due to take on some elements of public health care.
Councillor Mike Skinner (LD, St Mark's, St Paul's, St Peter's) spoke out on the issue at a full council meeting.
He said it was "fundamentally wrong" for the authority to promote anti-smoking healthcare campaigns when it was benefiting from the tobacco industry.
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The council previously said the pension fund investment portfolio was chosen by "experts, not councillors".
Mr Skinner said: "A significant number of people who are ill are ill because of smoking-related diseases and we will be putting out adverts telling people to stop smoking.
"That seems to be contrary – to be making a profit from it. They know very well that if they want to change their fund managers they could but it is about getting a return regardless of where it comes from."
The £11 million investment represents a very small portion of the overall pension fund, which stands at about £1 billion.
Councillor Ray Theodoulou (C, East Cotswold), cabinet member for finance and change, said the money "belongs to our pensioners, not the council".
However, if the fund doesn't raise enough money, all the employers with members in the fund have to make up the difference.
It meant tax payers would have to make up the short fall.
Mr Theodoulou said the current way of working "was the right way to continue in the future".
"If there were to be a ban on particular sectors I think it would have to apply to all authorities. We cannot pick and choose," he said.