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County Council Pension fund to sell around £6m in Russian assets but councillor asks why move was not made sooner

Nottinghamshire County Council pension fund is selling around £6 million in Russian-based assets – but faced questions over why the move was not made sooner.

The Pension Fund Committee Chairman Councillor Eric Kerry (Con) made a statement following the “unprovoked and aggressive attack by Putin’s regime in Ukraine”.

Cllr Kerry (Con) said during the council’s meeting on 10 March that investment managers have been reviewing the £6.6bn pension fund and have found under 0.1 per cent of it – meaning less than around £6.6m – is invested in Russian assets.

The fund looks after the of retirement pots of 145,000 members, including council workers, teachers and police officers.

It has now formally asked investment managers to sell all Russian assets and suspend further purchases in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

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It comes after the fund’s independent adviser wrote on 25 February that “despite the troubling events of the last few days” he did not advise any changes to the fund’s long-term strategy.

These comments were criticised by Councillor Lee Waters (Ashfield Ind) who said he found them “quite abhorrent”.

He said he was “shocked and dismayed” that the fund didn’t act sooner.

Cllr Waters said: “The fund analyst had predicted for months that a war was imminent, so why did the fund not act sooner to disinvest?

“As of September, we had £10m directly invested in BP, who had to dump parts of their Russian business, and £30m in Shell.

“Both BP and Shell have said that they are committed to pull out of Russia but as their businesses are so intrinsically linked to Russia, it will take many years to uncouple.

“Therefore, if you stand with the people of Ukraine I ask you to sell these holdings.

“By investing in this fossil fuel, this pension fund has blood on its hands.”

Cllr Kerry replied: “We were proactive when this started in finding out what the implications and options were.

“The timing of what we did reflected the knowledge we had at the time.

“We made the statement at absolutely the right time. If others chose to do it differently, that’s their choice.”

He added that the fund will “review our position as and when events take a substantive different turn and the isolation of the Russian economy is no longer deemed necessary by the international community”.

Mike Pringle (Lab) said: “It’s difficult to not politicise our investments in compared to what is happening, but any investments we have in fossil fuels is something that we realise we need to move away from.

“Any investment in fossil fuels is something we need to look at.

“I think we are doing it, do I think we’re doing it fast enough – no, I don’t.”

William Bourne, independent adviser to the fund, said: “Fossil fuels are part of the future for the next 20 or 30 years at least.

“Pretending fossil fuels don’t exist or trying to isolate them from the world, I am afraid I disagree with Cllr Waters on that point.

“It’s very hard for this committee to take action because we invest through funds and they are the ones who make decisions.

“I am not aware of any pension fund that actively sold Russian assets because they thought a war was coming.”

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