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Councillor’s Call for ‘More Moral Fibre’ over Russian Pension Fund Investments

Published on: 12 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 14 Mar, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A councillor has called for others to show “more moral fibre” and end Surrey County Council’s investments in Russian firms for its pension fund.

A meeting of Surrey County Council’s pension fund committee on Thursday (March 10) agreed to suspend any further investments in Russia – but delayed a decision on existing investments.

Council documents said the fund had “very minor” exposure to direct holdings in regions connected to the conflict of around £12million based on a total value of £5 billion, or less than 0.25 per cent of the fund.

But the value of holdings in Russian firms has dropped since Vladimir Putin began the invasion of Ukraine last month, leaving some councillors suggesting they should hold a decision on any action until their value goes back up.

They debated the wording of the recommendation to be voted on deciding between the fund reviewing its approach to exiting or reviewing “with a view to exiting” any investments in Russia and Belarus.

Waverley Borough Councillor Steve Williams (Green Party, Godalming Charterhouse) suggested the amendment to the wording of the committee’s statement.

He said he was “shocked” at suggestions to wait for the assets to recover their value.

He said: “Given the images that we have seen of people in Ukraine, the terrible, terrible anguish that suffered across this whole nation I think we need to show a little bit more moral fibre.”

Officers said the value of assets in the fund was being “valued down to zero as we speak” and that it would be “pretty much impossible” to trade them.

The suggestion to the committee was to continue to monitor the situation.

Cllr George Potter

George Potter (Liberal Democrat, Guildford East) said he didn’t believe the money could be referred to as a £12 million investment when its value had been written off by those in the council to zero.

He said: “I do not think that committing to dispose of a valueless asset is particularly irresponsible or rash and especially when it is such a tiny vanishingly small percentage of the overall fund.

“Especially when one considers the unprecedented and unique circumstances currently happening in Ukraine.”

The committee voted to approve the wording: “The salary pension fund is saddened by and strongly condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

“Given the current circumstances, we have immediately suspended making any further investments in Russia and Belarus and continue to review our existing investments with a view to exiting in due course as and when markets permit as long as the current circumstances prevail.

“This is above and beyond the UK sanctions currently in place.”

Sanctions imposed on Russians in the UK include those on 386 Russian lawmakers who supported Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich having his assets frozen by the government on Thursday.

Councillors were reminded of their fiduciary duty to protect the pension fund which had some exposure to Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian assets bonds through a multi-asset credit fund and to equities in Russian companies through indexed funds.

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Responses to Councillor’s Call for ‘More Moral Fibre’ over Russian Pension Fund Investments

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 12, 2022 at 1:20 pm

    As of 1pm today, Uri, a family friend and military reservist and his comrades, all ex-military, in Kyiv are safe and well, drinking tea and preparing to stand their ground.

    Food and Water supplies are currently adequate for the near future – he didn’t specify how long but he had time to take a phone call from Wales!

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