Havering Council’s £2.3m tobacco scandal

Med Buck, who chaired health watchdog Havering LINk before it was dissolved

Med Buck, who chaired health watchdog Havering LINk before it was dissolved - Credit: Archant

More than £2.3m of Havering Council’s pensions pot is still invested in tobacco firms – even though the council now has the job of helping people stop smoking.

Cllr Roger Ramsey: "Council and pension scheme are separate entities"

Cllr Roger Ramsey: "Council and pension scheme are separate entities" - Credit: Archant

More than £2.3m of Havering Council’s pensions pot is still invested in tobacco firms – even though the council now has the job of helping people stop smoking.

Health campaigners have accused the council of hypocrisy over the issue.

Havering took over responsibility for improving the health of its residents from the NHS in April.

Cutting smoking across the borough is one of the new public health service’s stated aims, along with slashing alcohol-related hospital admissions and reducing obesity levels.


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The figure, obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Romford Recorder, shows investments in tobacco have actually gone up since health charity Ash called on Havering Council to review where it keeps its pension cash.

As well as nearly £285,000 invested in Imperial Tobacco in the name of Havering’s pension fund, the council has more than £2m invested through a pooled fund in 13 other smoking firms.

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Of these, British American Tobacco Plc tops the list with a £1.05m investment. The firm – the world’s second largest – owns brands like Benson and Hedges.

Health campaigner Med Buck, who chaired watchdog Havering LINk, said it was an “absolute disgrace”.

“We all know tobacco is a major cause of diseases and adult mortality in UK, costing the NHS up to £2.7billion every year,” he said.

“I am amazed Havering Council is still a ‘shareholder’ of tobacco manufacturers whilst it is responsible for improving the health of the local population and running anti-smoking campaigns.

“If Havering Council wishes to remain credible as the guardian of public health, it should practise what it preaches and consider investing in alternative ethical funds.”

But finance boss Cllr Roger Ramsey denied there was a conflict of interest: “What many people do not know is the pension fund and the council are actually legally separate entities.

“It is the pension fund’s job to secure the best investment returns for the fund in the interests of its members.

“Whilst we do not impose any obligation on investment managers to avoid specific companies, they are encouraged to use those that demonstrate best practice in companies’ management of the social, environmental and ethical impact of their activities.

“This is set out in our statement of investment principles.”

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