England

Tobacco investments to be reconsidered by Norfolk and Essex councils

Two councils in the East region are to reconsider multi-million pound pension fund investments in tobacco before they take a lead role in NHS anti-smoking campaigns in 2013.

The move comes after a BBC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request showed councils across the region have invested more than £167m in tobacco.

Norfolk has invested £25.9m while Essex has invested £9.1m.

The two councils have said they would now review their investments.

Derrick Murphy, Conservative leader of Norfolk County Council and chair of the pension fund committee, said: "What I've got to do is get the best deal possible for the people who receive a local government pension from Norfolk.

Review planned

"This information is of interest to us as come next April public health in Norfolk becomes a County Council responsibility.

"We have invested billions of pounds worth of money, having said that - now it (the FOIA findings) has been discovered I think it's a duty to review whether that's the right thing to do."

David Finch, Conservative deputy leader of Essex County Council said: "The fact we only have £9.1m of our pension fund in tobacco-related products is minimal, but I think we need to decide if it's appropriate we have any investment in tobacco-related products.

"My own view is the amount we have in tobacco industries may be just a moment in time and we should go and reinvest in something else."

Martin Dockrell, director of research and policy at anti-smoking group Ash, told the BBC: "From 2013, local councils will have responsibility for leading local efforts to reduce the burden of death and disease from smoking, yet many of them are the largest tobacco shareholders in the area."

Mr Dockrell added that ethical investment rules meant fund managers were permitted to say they would only "invest in tobacco when they can prove that there is no other investment that can match the value".

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