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County council £80m investment in tobacco companies questioned

Charlotte Booth

Charlotte Booth

charlotte.booth@newburynews.co.uk

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County council £80m investment in tobacco companies questioned

HAMPSHIRE County Council has been criticised for investing more than £80m of pension fund money intotobacco companies. 

Financial figures from 2017 show the council has invested more than £47m of its pension fund into stock with British American Tobacco and more than £19m with Japan Tobacco, together with others.

Critics believe this conflicts with the council’s anti-smoking and health campaigns. 

A Hampshire County Council spokesperson said: “Hampshire’s pension fund panel and board, which acts independently of the county council, regularly assesses the performance and appropriateness of its investments and has a fiduciary duty, by law, to invest fund monies to achieve the best possible financial return.

“The pension fund’s investment managers are tasked with considering several factors, including ethical, social, environmental and governance, when making investment decisions on behalf of the pension fund.”

Hampshire councillor Derek Mellor (Con, Tadley and Baughurst ward) said: “The Hampshire Pension Fund Board has almost £7bn in active investment with many asset classes.

“It is the responsibility of the board to ensure the best return for its members and, indirectly through its investment arms, there will be a relatively small amount of the fund invested in tobacco.”

Ruth Milton, in the council’s Tobacco Control Strategy (2015-2018), writes: “Here, in Hampshire, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death, killing over 1,800 residents a year.

“While overall smoking prevalence is low, there are pockets where levels of smoking are far higher than the national average.

“It is in these areas and populations that we must target our actions and services.”

The strategy focuses on encouraging people to stop smoking and it claims: “Every £1 spent on smoking cessation saves £11 in future healthcare costs and health gains.” 

It is estimated the current annual cost of smoking to Hampshire is in the region of  £302m.

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