Boss sought to fight smoking – but tobacco link remains

Can Suffolk County Council end its pension link with tobacco companies? File picture: Owen Humphreys

Can Suffolk County Council end its pension link with tobacco companies? File picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Suffolk County Council is advertising for someone to fill a £37,000 a year post to try to persuade people to stop smoking – whose pension will be boosted by the millions of pounds its fund has invested in tobacco companies.

The authority is advertising on the Suffolk Jobs Direct website for a Health Improvement Commissioner (Tobacco and NHS Health Checks) at a salary of £36,930.

This is not a new post, it is replacing a member of staff who is moving on, and the job description says the successful candidate will 'lead the commissioning of tobacco control and cessation interventions'.

The job description contains a link to the council's recruitment brochure which mentions the pension scheme, but not its investment of £33million in tobacco companies.

The council voted overwhelmingly to disinvest in tobacco companies – but after taking legal advice the Pension Fund Committee, which also includes other authorities, decided this would not be possible.

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Tony Goldson, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for health, said; 'Enabling everyone to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives is one of our top priorities.

'The Health Improvement Commissioner role is a long established role and one of many in the county that is supporting Suffolk residents to improve their health and wellbeing, including changing their behaviours around smoking.

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'This is aligned to Public Health England's ambition to see a smoke-free generation by 2025.'

Andrew Reid, chairman of the Suffolk Pension Fund Committee, said: 'The committee is mindful of its ethical duty and has previously taken appropriate legal advice.

'Having access to this legal advice, performance data concerning relevant shares and market performance and based on the risks concerning pensionp erformance, it is not appropriate to consider disinvestment in tobacco at this time. The Suffolk Pension Fund will continue to monitor this.'

Labour councillor Jack Abbott, who is on the pensions' committee, said: 'I think we should go back and review this and ask for new legal advice – and see how other councils have successfully disinvested from tobacco companies over recent years.'

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