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Council considers withdrawing ‘awful’ £5m tobacco investments

10:20am Wednesday 10th April 2013

By Lauren May

The senior cabinet member for health has spoken out against a controversial £5m investment in the tobacco industry by Merton Council.

Last week the Wimbledon Guardian revealed the council has more than £5m invested in British American Tobacco, makers of Lucky Strike and Benson and Hedges cigarettes, and Imperial Tobacco, who make Lambert and Butler cigarettes.

This is despite Merton now planning to spend £163,000 on NHS stop smoking services this year.

But now, Councillor Linda Kirby, cabinet member for adult social health, has called for the council to look into rearranging its investment “triple quick”.

She said: “We don’t want to be investing in tobacco companies – I think it is awful.

“It’s happening at authorities up and down the country.

“Suddenly they will realise what’s going on and they will want to change it.”

The council has recently taken over a new public health role as part of the NHS shake-up making it directly responsible for improving people’s welfare by promoting healthy living, including running anti-smoking campaigns.

This year the council has earmarked £163,000 for NHS stop smoking services, despite having millions invested in tobacco companies.

Coun Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton Council, said the council would be reviewing the council’s investments adding that the council should be “mindful” that it was not fighting to reduce something harmful on one hand, and on the other investing in it.

Coun Kirby added: “I don’t know how locked in the council is to these investments but now it’s been revealed there will be a real attempt to get out of it if we can.

“I just don’t think we should be doing it and if we can get out of it we need to get out triple quick.”

Coun Richard Williams, chairman of Merton’s Pension Fund Advisory Committee, has said the investment would be reviewed at their next meeting.


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