The West Yorkshire Pension Fund has more assets invested in the tobacco industry than any other local authority pension fund in the country according to a report in the Guardian. This was based on data compiled from more than a hundred Freedom of Information requests.
The Fund is administered by Bradford Council and at the Governance and Audit Committee on 30 July Councillor Geoff Reid challenged the investment portfolio in which four out of the five top assets were in tobacco and fossil fuels.
In response to the latest report Councillor Reid (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) said:
“Bradford’s smoking death rate is 350 per 100,000 population. The average rate for England is 272. Our Council manages a Fund which has £284m invested in tobacco. When I questioned this in July I was told that maximising income was paramount.
At our committee meeting, I drew attention to the guidelines which allow trustees to take social and environmental concerns into account. It now appears that several serious investment professionals are saying that there are long-term risks threatening the tobacco industry, which sheds a fresh light on the standard answer about maximising income. Meanwhile other local authorities such as Greater Manchester have already decided to exit tobacco for ethical and social reasons.
The question I asked in July has been reinforced by this new report. It is time for fresh thinking within the Fund which Bradford administers. The Council has got to resolve the contradiction between its public health policies and support for the investment policy. Ensuring that people get a decent pension can be done without contributing to above average smoking deaths. A radical review of investments would offer a breath of fresh air to Bradford District.”