Chief in council pension funds transparency call

By Laura Sharman | 03 March 2022

A council chief executive has called for ‘full transparency’ from all local government pension schemes (LGPS) of holdings in Russian companies and assets.

The statutory board formed to advise the LGPS said it was assessing the scale of exposure to Russian investments and would share the information with central Government.

However, chief executive of Wyre Forest DC, Ian Miller, urged the sector to go further, tweeting he was ‘very disappointed’ that the LGPS advisory board ‘doesn’t see need for transparency with #localgov staff and wider public about Russian investments’.

LGPS funds have come under pressure to show moral leadership by acknowledging that investments in Russia are no longer acceptable after the country invaded its neighbour Ukraine, with some having already taken action.

The Brunel Pension Partnership has prohibited any new investments in Russian assets, and made arrangements to disinvest from all Russian-controlled and Russian-owned assets, bonds and equities.

Jayne Kirkham, chair of the pension fund committee at Cornwall Council, a member of the Brunel partnership, said: ‘I am pleased we have been able to act so quickly to ensure that our money is not invested anywhere that may benefit the Russian regime.

‘The invasion of Ukraine has horrified us all and it was important we took this step - both from a moral perspective and as a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian nation.

‘We believe that this position firmly sits within our fiduciary duty, and has been reached based on responsible and investment considerations.’

The Cheshire Pension Fund and Derbyshire Pension Fund are also reported to be reviewing their investment in Russian assets.

Derbyshire CC leader Barry Lewis said: ‘The administration supports a move to divest from Russian investments as soon as is practical and in line with meeting the objectives of the UK’s sanctions regime.’

However, a one-sentence statement from the LGPS advisory board for England and Wales only said that LGPS funds should ‘consider the implications for their investment portfolios, and discuss with their pools and asset managers what action should prudently be taken’.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson added it would ‘work very closely’ with the LGPS advisory board to ‘provide support to councils on any changes that may be required’.

One senior council officer said: ‘Whatever the scale of LGPS investments in Russia, their value has been severely eroded by stock market falls. Divesting from Russia might lead to some modest paper losses for funds but won’t affect pensions to be paid to council staff.’

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