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Havering Council tobacco investment ignites health row

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 September 2014

Health campaigner Med Buck

Health campaigner Med Buck

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Havering Council's growing investment in tobacco companies has been condemned by health campaigners as "ethically and morally unacceptable".

Havering Council leader Cllr Roger RamseyHavering Council leader Cllr Roger Ramsey

Nearly £2.5million of the authority’s pension pot is tied up in shares with companies that make cigarettes, cigars and rolling paper.

The substantial investment has been made even though the council has public health responsibilities relating to tobacco control and helping smokers to quit.

Health campaigner Med Buck, who chaired watchdog Havering Link before it was dissolved last year, questioned the controversial investment, which has grown by about £200,000 in the last year.

“It is ethically and morally unacceptable that Havering Council has increased its investment in tobacco companies since last year,” he said.

“How can Havering Council hold the responsibility of improving the health of its residents and yet be one of the shareholders of tobacco companies?”

Mr Buck added: “If Havering Council really believes in improving the health of its residents, it should avoid investing in tobacco companies and switch to ethical investment.

“Every resident of Havering would agree that health of the population is more important than profit.”

The council pensions fund has direct and indirect holdings in tobacco.

Directly, £390,000 is invested in Imperial Tobacco, a company which owns brands such as Golden Virginia and Rizla, up from £285,000 12 months ago.

More than £2.1m is also invested indirectly through a pooled fund. Altogether, Havering’s pension fund is worth more than £508.5m.

Havering Council leader Cllr Roger Ramsey said: “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.”

Read more:

Council budget: Services at risk as Havering Council aims to make drastic spending cuts
Council lock-in at Havering Town Hall

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