A trainee reporter has revealed that millions of pounds of council workers’ pension funds are being invested into tobacco firms and a company which makes cluster bombs.
Sunderland Echo reporter Tom White used freedom of information laws to discover that the Tyne and Wear Local Government Pension Fund, of which Sunderland City Council is a member, has more than £35m tied up in tobacco companies.
The Echo reported that this breaks down into £17m in British American Tobacco, £11m in Imperial Tobacco Group, £4m in Japan tobacco and £4m in Lorrilard Inc.
The information also revealed that Durham County Council had invested just under £9m of pension contributions in General Dynamics Corp, an American arms manufacturer producing components used in cluster bombs, as well as tens of millions invested in tobacco companies.
Reporter Tom White, who started at the Johnston Press-owned paper in June, said: “I asked for a list of companies and the amount of money that had been spent.
“When I first got the list it was a case of working out what each company was.
He added: “The response from the council was pathetic. It makes them look stupid and doesn’t deal with the issues.”
Sunderland Council, which is involved in a number of anti-smoking initiatives, did not comment on its investments but a general statement was provided by South Tyneside Council, which manages the Tyne and Wear Local Government Pension Fund.
It said: “The approach to investing the fund is set out in the Pension Committee’s Statement of Investment Principles.These documents cover the extent to which social, environmental and ethical considerations are taken into account in the selection of investments.”
Durham County Council said it had a financial responsibility to obtain the best possible return on investments to keep costs low.