Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Arms for Kent Taxpayers

Details of a press release below. Please sign our petition here:

Kent Green Party have slammed Kent County Council's decision to keep investing in arms, tobacco and oil companies(1). The decision reached on Friday by KCC's Superannuation Committee means that millions of Kent taxpayer's pounds will continue to be used to fund the manufacture of arms, cigarettes and the production of oil. These un-ethical investments were denied by the Committee's spokesperson, LibDem Dan Daley, in an email to Kent Greens last week. As at 31 Mar 07, KCC share holdings included £13.9 million in BAE Systems , the UK's biggest arms manufacturer and the 4th largest arms manufacturer in the world, £14 million in tobacco and £91.8 million in oil, according the Acting Director of Finance at KCC, Nick Vickers.

Stuart Jeffery, who has led the investigation of KCC’s investments, said: "We had high hopes that County Councillors would find an ounce of conscience in their souls, but we were sadly wrong. Investing in arms is not just unethical, it is foul and deplorable. These arms kill people: civilians and soldiers. There is no excuse for tax payer's money to be used to fund death and destruction.

"Ethical investments are now out-performing unethical ones so there is no remaining excuse for holding them. Allowing KCC investments of this nature should surely fall into the category of unacceptable standards in public life.
"What is perhaps most amazing at all is that the Committee's spokesperson, LibDem Dan Daley, tried to deny that the council holds these investments. This is clearly not true(2).”

FURTHER INFORMATION: Stuart Jeffery on 07970 436029. Contact address as above. Kent Green Party is running a petition against these investments (3)

1. Statement of Investment Principles for KCC is shown below
2. An email from Dan Daley stated: “We have debated hard and long in the Superannuation Committee concerning ethical investments and have instructed all of our Fund Managers to
ensure that our instructions in this regard are complied with. The Kent
Fund takes no part in investments in any companies engaged in armaments
or tobacco for example - and we are careful to exclude companies trading
in those areas where there is evidence of lack of awareness of climate
change or human rights abuses. You may obtain more information if you
require it from the KCC Secretariat.”
3. Kent Green Party has an online petition against these investments: http://maidstone.greenparty.org.uk/kccinvestment.php




There are 3 main areas where the Fund looks at broader social issues relating to investment strategy:

Ethical Investment

Ethical investment is normally taken to mean not investing in certain types of company on a pre-determined basis such as production of armaments, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, etc. The Kent Fund places no specific restrictions on the companies which our investment managers can invest in due to:
· Our fiduciary responsibility to achieve the best return we can on investments. Ultimately the cost of the pension fund comes back to local taxpayers through their Council Tax and we need to minimize the impact on Council Tax.

· The difficulty of agreeing what is in and what is excluded. By not making exclusions we can more readily judge how well our investment managers are performing.

· Investment managers highlight that it is much easier to influence company behaviour as an investor rather than by not holding the stocks.

Underpinning this, the Kent Fund will intervene with the investment manager if we believe that they are making investments in stocks or companies which are not acceptable to the Fund.

Corporate Governance

For the managers of UK stocks we have had a long standing policy of insisting that managers vote their shares. Managers are required to report back to us on a quarterly basis and we also monitor by means of a 3rd party voting organisation, Manifest.

Environment and Climate Change

The Fund recognises as a responsible investor the importance of environmental and climate change issues in making investment decisions.

We believe that investment managers should take account of environmental and climate change issues in their investment decisions.

To enhance our understanding of these issues and to allow us to fully engage with our investment managers the Fund has joined the International Investors Group on Climate Change.

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