May 22 2013 Latest news:
by Tom Marshall
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Town hall bosses have been branded “hypocritical” for investing millions of pounds in tobacco firms – while preaching against the evils of smoking.
Islington Council this week admitted it has put £13million into two tobacco companies as part of its £750million pension pot.
The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by NHS nurse John Warren who has witnessed first-hand the dire impact of smoking and the huge burden it puts on the health service.
The 30-year-old said: “It’s hypocritical when they talk about their anti-smoking efforts and the public needs to know. It’s a huge amount of money and for me, working in the NHS, it’s very disappointing. It’s a very unethical investment.”
Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s health chief, recently spoke out against the habit and urged residents to quit, saying it is the biggest cause of premature death in the borough.
Yet the council claims it has a legal duty to maximise its returns and therefore cannot pull out of tobacco.
Mr Warren was unimpressed by this, saying: “If crack cocaine and heroin were legal, would it be okay to invest in them? It’s a product that kills half of its users – more than crack or heroin – so just because it’s legal, that doesn’t make it acceptable.”
The council’s excuse is also vigorously disputed by charities including FairPensions and Action on Smoking and Health.Emma Dixon, of the Islington Green Party, said: “Islington Council has committed itself to a strategy working towards a smoke-free Islington by 2020.
“So why is it lining the pockets of the tobacco firms who are doing so much to damage the health of residents?”
Islington has the second-highest rate of adult smokers in London, with 25 per cent, or roughly 50,000 people, and the problem costs NHS Islington about £11million a year.
Cllr Richard Greening, the council’s executive member for finance, said: “We undertook a review about three or four years ago to see whether a more ethical investment stance would generate similar levels of return and found that it wouldn’t.
“We are required to maximise returns from the pension fund’s investments and so are not in a position to disinvest from these companies.”