THE council is to pull out of its investment in the tobacco industry. In the latest measure introduced by the new Labour-run administration, the council will switch to a more "ethical" pension fund provider. Labour has also ruled out investment in nuclear power and arms. The previous Conservative-led council came under fire for investing £2.1 million in the tobacco industry. A senior Tory said smoking was a "matter of choice" but critics said financial support for cigarettes was at odds with the council's public health responsibilities. The decision to move to a different fund was made by the council's pension committee earlier this month and announced at Monday's cabinet meeting. Simon Hall, cabinet member for finance and treasury, said: "The council will be getting a better investment deal as ethical funds are performing favourably against other schemes. "Tobacco is not the low-risk, high-profit investment it once was. "This really is the best interests of the scheme's beneficiaries and residents, both ethically and financially." Cllr John Wentworth, chair of the pensions committee, said: "Having a pension fund that invests in tobacco was very much at odds with our responsibility to protect and improve public health in this borough, and there were clearly a number of concerns about the ethics of doing that. "Ensuring that the council is a socially responsible investor was a key manifesto pledge for the administration." Last September, Dudley Mead, then chairman of the pensions committee, pledged to stop investing in payday loans firms but said pulling out of tobacco would be "too ethical".
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