Fri, 25 Sept 2020
INVESTING in a petrol station site does not mean West Berkshire Council is propping up the fossil fuel industry, a councillor has said.
Part of the council’s £63m investment in commercial property has been spent on a petrol station in Tipton in the West Midlands.
But the council has said it is no more invested in fossil fuels than it is invested in baked beans, as it also owns a building operated by a supermarket.
Councillor for finance and economic development Ross Mackinnon (Con, Bradfield) gave the response at a meeting of the council's executive after being asked whether the council or any of its pension funds invested in fossil fuels or the animal agriculture industry by the leader of the Green Party minority, Carolyne Culver (Ridgeway),
Mr Mackinnon said: “The council has no investments in any of these industries.
“The council doesn’t invest in shares or bonds of any individual companies, nor do we invest in collective investment schemes which sometimes have a focus on particular sectors, such as fossil fuels or animal agriculture.
“I think it’s a poor argument, but I’ve seen suggested elsewhere that part of our commercial property portfolio, the filling station in Tipton, represents an investment in fossil fuels. That’s not the case.
“It’s an investment in commercial real estate.
“It, of course, sells petrol and diesel amongst other things, but it’s a real estate investment.
“We are no more invested in fossil fuels than we are invested in baked beans because we also own a building operated by Sainsbury’s.”
Questioning the investment, Ms Culver said: “The fact that we have a policy to go carbon neutral by 2030, do you think that’s appropriate that we should be investing in real estate that sells petrol?”
“I think it is,” Mr Mackinnon replied.
“As I said, the analogy I drew was we own a Sainsbury’s building, we’re not invested in baked beans, or leaks or vegetables.
“As fossil fuels become less widely used I would imagine that filling station will switch to LBG [liquefied biogas], maybe hydrogen or perhaps it won’t be a filling station for the time that we hold the freehold.
“Perhaps it will turn into flats or offices, but no, it’s a commercial property investment and to somehow suggest that we are propping up the fossil fuel industry I think is slightly mistaken.”
Mr Mackinnon said the pension fund might hold investments in these industries, but the investments held by the Royal County of Berkshire pension fund were “complex and extensive”.
He said: “The investment managers are developing internal analysis of investment by a number of categories, including sector and industry type, but that’s not been finalised and would include commercial sensitive information.
“The short answer to the pension fund is they may well do, hold investments in fossil fuels or animal agriculture.”