A COUNCIL is under fire for continuing to invest its pension funds in cigarette manufacturing while running anti-smoking campaigns.
In its Tobacco Control Strategy Hampshire County Council noted that each year, smoking causes the death of more than 1,800 people across the county.
But it has more than £80m invested in tobacco firms.
According to an opposition councillor the move is ‘totally inappropriate’.
In 2017 the council's pension fund included British American Tobacco stock worth more than £47m and Japan Tobacco stock worth £19m.
There were also other investments in the same industry.
Lib Dem opposition leader Keith House, a county councillor, told The News: ‘It’s totally inappropriate.
‘Hampshire has a massive responsibility to public health in terms of funding activities and leadership in the wider community so to be funding tobacco at the same time is pretty close to hypocrisy.
‘There’s a duty to get a good return on investments but I don’t know if that means helping people get cancer at the same time.’
‘There’s a duty to be ethical as well, the council doesn’t have to do this.
‘It needs to think about investments carefully and find better ways.
‘This shows a laissez-faire attitude towards pension funds rather than it being thought through.’
Cllr House compared the situation to vegetarians investing in an abattoir.
Hampshire County Council said: ‘Hampshire’s Pension Fund Panel and Board, which acts independently, regularly assesses the performance and appropriateness of its investments.
‘It has a duty to invest fund monies to achieve the best possible financial return.
‘Investment managers are tasked with considering several factors, including ethical, social, environmental and governance when making investment decisions.’
The Department for Communities and Local Government states that council pension funds' predominant concern should be perusing a financial return, but could consider other factors provided that doing so would not involve significant risk of financial detriment to the scheme.