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£141m investment in fossil fuels criticised

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MASS data released this week by Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth (Oct 30) reveals that Pembrokeshire Council (as part of the Dyfed Council Pension Fund) has £64.8million of public money directly invested through workers pension funds in fossil fuel companies like BP and Shell with a further projected £76.5million in indirect fossil fuel investments.

The research shows that Pembrokeshire County Council has over 8% of its pension fund directly invested in fossil fuels, and money is invested into multinational fossil fuel companies including BP, Shell and BHP Billiton

Eleanor Clegg of Friends of the Earth said: “Many people working for Pembrokeshire Council will be concerned to learn that their future is tied up with such a risky and polluting industry. When governments do act to prevent dangerous climate change, the business model for fossil fuel companies will be over, and that day is fast approaching. And, if oil and gas companies keep on drilling in their final days, it will make climate change far worse – it is the right decision both financially and ethically for Pembrokeshire County Council to divest as soon as possible.”

This is the first time that the £231 billion investments of local government public money have ever been broken down and released publicly, and their exposure to fossil fuels quantified. The data shows that overall the 192 councils in the UK have £14 billion invested in fossil fuels via their pension funds. Three quarters of these direct fossil fuel shareholdings are in only ten companies, headed by BP and Shell.

80% of fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. Consequently, there has been growing concerns about the long-term financial risks of fossil fuel investments. A recent analysis found that California’s public pension funds, CalPERS & CalSTRS, incurred a combined loss of over $5 billion in the last year alone from their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies.

Friends of the Earth said in a statement: “This data offers the residents of Pembrokeshire the information they need to ask why the Council is choosing to invest in risky oil, gas or coal. Instead the Council could reinvest this money into building new homes, clean renewable energy or public transport.”

Eleanor Clegg also told The Herald: “Most fund members and taxpayers won’t be happy to learn that their money is funding climate change. As local residents we’ll be calling on the council to stand on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels.”

She added: “Oxford and Bristol City Councils have already taken a lead in making fossil free commitments, joining 40 cities internationally and larger institutions like the Norwegian Government Pension Fund. There are 389 institutions globally – including universities, faith groups, health groups and governments – that have committed to divest. Local residents who would like to join the local campaign to convince Pembrokeshire Council to divest from fossil fuels should get in touch.”

A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said in response: “Many commentators from the public and media get confused with the fact that it is the Dyfed Pension Fund and not Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire or Ceredigion individually. All investments are on behalf of the Dyfed Pension Fund – not any individual employer. There are approximately 50 employers in the fund.”

The spokesman added: “The Dyfed Pension Fund Statement of Investment Principles (SIP) details the Fund’s ‘Social, Environmental and Ethical Considerations’. Paragraph 5 states: The Pension Panel recognises that social, environmental and ethical considerations are among the factors which investment managers will take into account, where relevant, when selecting investments for purchase, retention or sale. The managers have produced statements setting out their policies. The managers have been delegated by the Panel to act accordingly.

“The Pension Fund is a member of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), which is one of the leading voices in corporate governance and responsible investment in the UK.

“Before making investments in fossil fuel companies the investment managers assess a wide range of factors, including, the political stability of the region where its reserves lie, the financial regimes it operates in, the life and quality of its reserves, its operational record, quality of the management, its financial strength, sensitivity to volatile energy prices and its market valuation.

 

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Appeal following Aberystwyth assault

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Dyfed-Powys Police is appealing for witnesses following a suspected assault in Aberystwyth on Saturday, February 1.

A 59-year-old man sustained serious injuries and was taken to hospital.

A 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of ABH and released under investigation.

The incident occurred at around 9.30pm on the corner of Upper Portland Street and Terrace Road.

Police are aware there were a number of people in the vicinity at the time of the incident and would like to speak to anyone who saw what happened, or may have information that could help the investigation.

Please call 101, visit bit.ly/DPPReportOnline or email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired you can also text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/1743/01/02/2020/02/C.

Information can also be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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Leading the way in managing planning

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A KEY Officer in Ceredigion leads the way in sharing what it’s like to have a career in planning.

Russell Hughes-Pickering is Ceredigion County Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration, which involves being the head of planning. He has been part of an informative article in February 2020’s edition of ‘The Planner’, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Russell Hughes-Pickering is one of twelve Corporate Lead Officers who sit on the council’s Leadership Group. He says planners need to “be politically astute and look above plans and policies”. This means understanding the organisation, their role in delivering corporate objectives and thinking strategically “so they see how they fit in across the board and in turn help deliver better services and better places for people.”

Russell left Llandovery College in 1985 to start a degree in planning at the University of Westminster. He started work at the London Borough of Hounslow in 1989 as a planner before becoming the lead officer in development plan work in 1997.

The RTPI’s article delves into the careers of a chief planning officer and is campaigning for heads of planning to be incorporated into local authority senior leadership teams. This is amid fears of a declining profile and diminishing corporate presence of spatial planning.

Russell continues, “The more I’ve been involved in preparing corporate plans or the council’s development programme, the easier it is to see, influence and ensure planning is involved at the right time. This has helped avoid issues when major projects go through their planning stage, whether that’s a town centre development, a change to a care home or a new school. Fortunately, I’m involved in an excellent leadership group where the culture focuses on improvement and helping each other to achieve better services.”

He moved back to Aberystwyth in 2000 when taking up the Principal Forward Planner role at Ceredigion, before becoming the Assistant Director for Planning in 2006. This job evolved from a primarily planning remit to one that also included building control and housing matters. In May 2013, he became Head of Performance and Improvement, then became Head of Performance and Economy in 2015. From 01 April 2018, Russell has been the Council’s Corporate Lead Officer for Economy and Regeneration.

When asked what advice Russell would give younger colleagues, he wants to see more authorities improve arrangements on major development projects by setting up corporate development and project management groups and involve planners in them. He also wants to involve the next generation of planners. He said, “Young planners should get involved in these as much as possible so they’re involved in a wide range of service improvements, embrace projects or new development, seek ways to help progress and improve them, and engage in a positive way.”

Councillor Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration, which includes planning. He said, “We are grateful to Russell for his vision and strong voice for planning matters in Ceredigion. A planner has a big part to play in helping to develop and deliver corporate priorities. It shapes the future of our county for future generations.”

The council’s decision to prioritise the planning process shows how the council is working to reach its corporate priorities of boosting the economy and Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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Elin Jones calls on Ceredigion community groups to apply for ATM fund

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Elin Jones, Assembly Member for Ceredigion, has called on community groups to apply for The Community Access to Cash Pilot in order to make sure that ATMs are readily available in rural communities.

The initiative has been launched by UK Finance, the collective voice for the banking and finance industry in the UK.

Responding, Elin Jones AM said:

“Access to cash is still essential for many people, but getting access to cash can be particularly difficult for many communities. We’ve seen bank closures in many towns in Ceredigion, particularly in rural areas, despite opposition from customers in many market towns. Mobile banks do sometimes ease the burden, but the availability of these services is often infrequent.

“I’m glad this initiative has been launched in order to help local communities to identify and secure appropriate access to cash and payment services.

“Community groups are being encouraged to access the fund by applying on the UK Finance website, and I would be happy to assist any community group that is interested in applying. Please feel free to contact my office and I would be happy to help in any way that I can.”

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