Controversial Shropshire pension fund has 'no policy' on investing in fracking firms
A Shropshire pension fund says it has "no policy" on investing in companies engaged in fracking after being put on the spot by climate campaigners.
The Shropshire County Pension Fund is relied on by thousands of county public sector pensioners with incomes coming from the fund's multimillion pound investments.
Fears have been raised of fracking coming to the county after Prime Minister Liz Truss lifted a moratorium on the issue. Fracking releases oil from certain rocks by using high pressure drilling.
Campaigner Tina Teearu of the pressure group Fossil Free Shropshire (FFS) asked if the fund would be willing to invest in fracking after the UK's new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, lifted the ban on drilling for shale gas. Several parts of Shropshire, including those in the Meres and Mosses area, have previously been identified as potential areas for exploration.
James Walton, the council's head of finance, governance and assurance at Shropshire Council told the Pension Committee on Friday morning that it has "no policy" on fracking.
He said the issue is one that won't be speculated on but any investments the fund makes in companies has to pass a process of "due diligence."
The trustees also came under pressure from FFS spokesperson Paul Cooper, who is a pensioner receiving an income from the fund.
Mr Cooper, from Broseley, asked if the committee believes it has ‘blood on its hands’ over the devastating floods in Pakistan that have claimed the lives of 1,400 Pakistanis and brought climate-induced misery to over 33 million people.
Mr Cooper, said: "It’s time for the Shropshire County Pension Fund Committee to recognise that the fund has a moral responsibility to stop investing in fossil fuels.
"As a member of the Shropshire Pension Fund, I don’t want to profit off the back of death and misery in other countries.’
Naomi Yates, aged 25, asked: "Does Shropshire’s pension fund want the young people of this county to have a liveable future or not?"
Mr Walton, answering five questions from members of the public in one response, said the fund has made "significant progress" on the issue in the last 18 months. It takes the issue "seriously", he added.
The committee can expect to see reports on the issue at its meeting in December, he said.
Mr Walton also told the committee that investments are being made into equity funds that will help it to reduce carbon emissions.