The committee which oversees Shropshire County Pension Fund was due to meet later this week to decide on whether to pull the fund’s money out of companies like BP and Shell in favour of more environmentally-friendly investments.
But Shropshire Council, which administers the fund, has now postponed the meeting because of “heightened sensitivity” during purdah, the pre-election period.
The authority has also cancelled a meeting of the full council which had been scheduled for polling day – December 16 – though no other committee meetings have yet been affected.
The postponement of the pension committee meeting has been criticised by campaigners who had already accused the fund of “dragging its heels” over the issue, following votes by both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin councils last summer in support of divestment.
The committee is made up of four Shropshire councillors and two from Telford & Wrekin, as well as employee and pensioner representatives from both authorities who are not able to vote.
Fossil Free Shropshire (FFS), which has led the campaign for the fund to divest, questioned why the meeting was affected by purdah rules as the committee is “supposed to be independent of Shropshire Council and politics”.
Jamie Russell, spokesperson for FFS, said: “We’re sad to see the pension fund committee is still dragging its heels on making a decision about divestment from fossil fuels, even though the employers who pay the majority of contributions into the fund are in favour of it.
“The committee has delayed this issue since Shropshire Council voted for divestment in July 2020.
“It doesn’t seem to understand the urgency of climate action, nor the fact that divestment is a sound fiduciary decision.
“We call on individual members of the pension fund to demand a vote on this key issue.
“Do Shropshire pensioners want their savings invested in new oil and gas expansion by companies like BP and Shell?
“Or do they want cleaner, greener investments that are earning seven times more than fossil fuel stocks?”
Shropshire councillor Julian Dean, who put forward the motion last year for the authority to ask the pension fund to divest, said: “It beggars belief that there are councillors who still think it’s OK to sink their staff’s pension contributions into an industry that is destroying those same staff’s children’s future.
“Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin, Shrewsbury and other local councils have all called for divestment, because they know it makes sense, environmentally and financially.”
Shropshire Council said the meeting had been postponed as a result of the by-election.