CHURCH leaders in Carmarthen have slammed council chiefs for investing more than £12 million in cigarette company British American Tobacco.
The money comes from the pensions of council workers and councillors across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.
Bernarr Atherton, president of Churches Together in Carmarthen, said it was morally wrong to make money from cigarettes.
He said: “If the council is saying smoking is bad, it should not be investing money in tobacco companies.
“In every way, smoking is bad. Smoking leads to cancer and kills people.
“At the end of the day, they’re making money out of smoking.”
Investments for the fund are managed by three councillors from Carmarthenshire Council and the authority’s head of resources Roger Jones, on behalf of the three counties.
In 2008, the fund invested £11,030,511 in British American Tobacco. This increased during 2009 to £12,183,948.
Mr Atherton called on the fund to pull its money out and said: “There is no good reason for not doing this, only inertia and the wish to make a quick profit out of other people’s suffering through cancer, disease and death,” he said.
Carmarthenshire Council’s head of financial services Chris Moore said: “There’s no ethical screening in place for the Dyfed Pension Fund. This is the norm for the majority of local authority pension funds.
“The fund’s investment managers have no restrictions on the shares they can purchase on ethical grounds.”
He said that what was an unethical investment for one person may be ethical for another.
“There have been no discussions between the fund panel and the investment managers on stopping buying tobacco company shares now or in the near future,” he added.
The chairman of the church group which has criticised the fund is Abergwili’s Reverend Leigh Richardson, and the secretary is Captain Sarah Butler, from the town’s Salvation Army.
Mr Atherton said the church group had written to the Assembly and every councillor in Carmarthenshire, urging them to reinvest the money.
Carmarthenshire Council took over responsibility for the fund when Dyfed was broken up in 1996.
Dyfed Pensions Fund invests millions of pounds in other companies, such as BP (£23 million), Vodafone (£19 million), HSBC (£17 million) and Glaxosmithkline (£19 million).
© Copyright: Thisissouthwales