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Campaign group warns borough is "playing with fire" over pensions investments

PUBLISHED: 09:14 24 February 2016 | UPDATED: 09:14 24 February 2016

Divest Bexley

Divest Bexley

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Divest Bexley are campaigning for safer investments

A campaign group is warning Bexley residents of dangers in the borough’s current investment in oil and coal companies for its pension pot.

Divest Bexley is a local campaign group which is looking for pension reform in the borough.

Currently, Bexley Pension Fund invests £38million into fossil fuel companies, making up around 5.8 per cent of the pot.

Sam Martin from Divest believes there are significant risks with the investment.

He said: “The council is playing with fire over these investments. We have seen the price of oil and coal drop significantly in recent years, an international agreement in December, and reliance on these types of fuels could drop, seeing less investment.

“We’re concerned environmentally, as Bexley is in a flood risk area, if climate change continues, the borough could be majorly affected.

“There are alternatives, Haringey council has stopped investing in fossil fuels, and there are renewable energies the council can invest in.

“Councils could even start investing in local businesses and start putting faith in local people.

“We’re planning to put forward questions to the council at a meeting in April, after we attend another meeting next week.”

A spokesperson Bexley Council said: “The London Borough of Bexley Pension Fund, rather than the council itself, makes investments in order to secure future pension payments for its members.

“The pension fund itself has a fiduciary duty to maximise returns for its members and therefore seeks to put as few constraints on its external investment managers as possible in order to satisfy this duty.

“However, the pension fund does operate an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policy which requires its investment managers to engage actively with companies in which they invest.

The aim of the ESG policy is to maximise financial returns for the pension fund and council tax payers whilst ensuring that companies in which the pension fund invests meet all legal requirements, reflect good practice and provide sustainable competitive advantage, and protect the company and its shareholders from harmful activity.

Within these guidelines, the investment managers are able to invest in energy companies.

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