Consultation into Essex council workers’ pension fund investments

Coins and housing, a necessary combination for a happy retirement. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Coins and housing, a necessary combination for a happy retirement. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A pledge has been made to “clean up” the Essex council workers’ pension fund after it was found to have millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash tied up in fossil fuel companies, arms manufacturers and tobacco firms.

The pension fund is one of the largest local government pension schemes in the UK and it makes investments on behalf of thousands of workers including teachers and charity workers.

In January 2019, an investigation by the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed that among those investments was millions going toward unethical firms involved in fossil fuels, arms manufacturing and tobacco.

Labour councillor Matt Dent is urging all public sector workers signed up to the fund to take part in a six-week consultation.

He said: “This public consultation is the best way to get this changed and I believe we need to.”

Among the investments discovered was millions of pounds in subsidiaries of the Indian multi-national firm the Tata Group.

Just days after the United Nations had accused Myanmar’s military of the “gravest” crimes against civilians, including genocide, Tata publicly announced it was selling equipment to them.

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A further £600,000 is invested in BAE Systems, a British company that has supplied fighter jets to Saudi Arabia which may have been used during the conflict in Yemen.

Mr Dent continued: “The idea you can separate social responsibility and financial responsibly is a nonsense.

“Myanmar is somewhere equipment from these companies could have been used as part of a genocide.

“Regardless of how you view human rights, you can’t detach the real-world consequences from this, socially and economically.

“It’s 2020, the idea any public money should be going into these things is ridiculous.”

Outside of ethical concerns, Mr Dent said the investments are unlikely to bring positive long-term financial returns.

He said the world is moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewables and global conflicts are often highly unpredictable.

Mr Dent added: “We need to invest in the future not just for pension fund members but for everybody.

“We can’t do that if money is going into fossil fuels, tobacco and weapons.”