Councillors in Calderdale urged to back pension fund call

Calderdale councillors will be asked to recommend a staff pension fund disinvests from fossil fuel companies.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 6:00 am

This week Calderdale Council’s Cabinet agreed to recommend to the full council that members in turn agree to make the request to the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to do this within three years.

Cabinet member for Climate Change and Resilience, Coun Scott Patient (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said the recommendation had initially been made by the council’s Cabinet Climate Change Working Party.

He said in his opinion and that of others these were assets that would dwindle in value and instead the fund should make more sustainable economic and environmental investments, for example in green energy, helping mitigate climate change.

Council chamber in Halifax town hall
Council chamber in Halifax town hall

Two Cabinet members, Coun Jenny Lynn (Lab, Park) and Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) had both declared an interest in the item being discussed, with Coun Lynn sitting on the investment fund’s advisory panel.

Coun Lynn said she and some others on the panel had been advocating this for a while and Cabinet’s decision, if supported by council, would strengthen their hand.

Six or seven years ago the fund had divested from coal interests before they started to nosedive, she said.

Their duty was to avoid unnecessary risk and, as former Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney had recently warned, there was a real danger oil company assets could slump, said

Coun Lynn, saying economic as well as environmental factors had to be taken into account.

Coun James Baker (Lib Dem, Warley) said he supported the move. “I really do hope the pension fund takes note of this and takes note of the economic arguments , you can’t separate the economics from the environmental,” he said.

But a fellow investment board member took a different view, with Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) urging caution.

On three occasions this item had been brought before the panel, which had a majority of Labour councillors, and it had been rejected, he said.

Employees should also be consulted, said Coun Baines.

“Have we actually consulted the employees as to whether they think it is the right thing to do, to possibly reduce the returns and take a gamble on something else? I would ask you to think again,” he said.

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