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Take your funds out of tobacco, council urged
DEMANDS are being made for Worcestershire County Council to withdraw £21 million of investments in the tobacco industry.
Despite the council taking over responsibility for ‘stop smoking’ services from next year and being in charge of creating an overall health strategy for the county, bosses still invest in companies which sell cigarettes.
The pension fund, which has £1.5 billion in assets, has £15 million invested in British American Tobacco and £6 million with Imperial Tobacco.
During a fierce debate at County Hall, councillors said it was “grossly hypocritical” and “immoral”.
Councillor Alan Amos, deputy leader of the county’s Labour group, said: “Smoking kills 122,000 people every year, it causes one in six deaths in Worcestershire and there are around 17,000 people in the county suffering from smoking-related diseases.
“It costs the NHS in Worcestershire £50 million every year. It’s grossly hypocritical to be spending all this money on health while investing in the tobacco industry, which is killing people. There will always be different companies to invest in. Is the leader happy to go on running an immoral council?”
Councillor Liz Tucker, Lib Dem group leader, said: “I accept there’s a contradiction in putting money into encouraging people to stop smoking while at the same time, investing in these companies. I cannot accept it or explain it away, so I’ll be backing this.”
Labour group leader Peter McDonald said: “We can’t have two faces. We can’t go into schools saying ‘don’t smoke’ while we put millions into tobacco.”
But the motion was voted down by the Conservatives, despite many admitting it was a moral dilemma.
Councillor David Thain said: “Smoking is a repulsive habit, but we’re breaking no laws. It’s very difficult to know where you draw the line.”
Councillor John Campion, a fellow Tory, said: “If we take a moral standing over this, where do we stop? Do we stop investing in car companies because we’re all for public transport? This is a very small part of the pension fund and should we be denying the rights of those people who have worked hard for those pensions the best return?”
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the group leader, said taking out the money would “open up the gates” for people to demand they withdraw cash from all sorts of other investments.
The motion was rejected after a blanket Conservative vote for refusal.