Suffolk County Council's Conservative leadership asked to explain fossil fuel pension investment
Questions are being asked over the county council’s ambition for Suffolk to be the greenest county while it is investing millions of pounds of its pension fund in fossil fuel companies.
The Tory-led council’s administration was quizzed by a member of the public during the full council meeting this month, with County Hall leaders being asked if they would sell off its pension scheme investments in fossil fuel firms.
Data from March’s pension fund committee showed the council held an investment of £23.6million in Royal Dutch Shell – the council’s largest investment.
The question has prompted fresh concerns from Robert Lindsay, Green representative on the pension fund, who has called for fossil fuel investments to be axed in light of the council’s aim of being ‘greenest county’.
He said: “My belief is that we should not take the very real risk of investing in fossil fuel companies when the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned pension companies about the risk of stranded assets.
“BP and Shell sit atop billions of barrels of unextracted fossil fuel which they claim as assets on their balance sheets. The risk of these assets becoming near worthless grows day by day.
“If Suffolk County Council pension beneficiaries are suddenly faced with a large deficit in their pension fund because of stranded assets, and they ask us, the pension committee, what steps we took to avoid this, it will not be enough to say that we trusted our fund managers to look after the investments for us.”
Mr Lindsay said the committee’s next meeting will hear from a carbon passive fund manager.
Conservative cabinet member for finance and assets, Richard Smith, said investment decisions were devolved to the pension fund committee.
Andrew Reid, Conservative chairman of the committee stressed that it was not council money put into the investments.
“Having sufficient money in the fund to meet these allocations is the primary obligation in deciding the investment strategy,” he said.
“Suffolk County Council invests in a diverse range of investments.
“It employs professional investment managers to select investments.
“This does not include any kind of exclusion, and this policy is kept under review.”
During the same meeting, a Green-led motion for the council to declare a climate emergency was approved, with a task force set to be established over urgent measures to cut carbon emissions.