Cambridgeshire council's £25m tobacco investment criticised

Cambridgeshire County Council has been criticised for investing £25m, or 1.9%, of the Local Government Pension Fund it oversees, in the tobacco industry.

The Conservative-led council has been accused of "investing in addiction and death" by a Unison representative.

But a council spokesman said it had "an obligation to maximise returns on the scheme's investments... and minimise the cost to council taxpayers".

Its pension committee is to consider the "ethics" of the investments.

John Toomey, Unison's regional organiser, said: "The council is responsible for public health.

"What sort of an example is it to invest what would be millions of pounds in this way?

"There's a difference between investing ethically and investing in whatever makes the biggest profit."

'Exploring ethics'

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, Caroline Shepherd, said she had asked the pensions committee to change its investment as she felt it was "entirely inappropriate".

"They are responsible for delivering public health messages and they are not doing what they preach," she said.

"Of course they've got to do the right thing for the people in the pension fund, but no pension manager in the world says you must invest in tobacco.

"It's because they've chosen to do it."

A spokesman from Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said it was neither ethical nor economic for the council to have made the investment.

"The tobacco industry is heading for a very rough time with increased litigation and legislation, so now is probably the time to cash in those shares and invest in something more sustainable," he said.

The council's pension committee has been asked to "explore the ethics and law relating to the scheme's investments".

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