The council has been accused of dealing with “traders in death” by investing in tobacco companies.
The attack came from Cllr Maggie Mansell, Labour’s shadow cabinet member for health at Monday’s meeting of the council’s cabinet which backed a new anti-smoking strategy to reduce tobacco consumption across the borough.
The council has around £20m of its pension fund for employees tied up in shares in Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco.
Cllr Mansell said while she supported the strategy itself, she wondered how many people would be puzzled by the investments in the industry.
She said: “The tobacco companies are drug traders, they are traders in death.”
But Cllr Dudley Mead, who chairs the council’s pensions committee, made it plain at the meeting that investments would go on.
He pointed out that in 1995 the then Labour council had refused to invest in tobacco companies and he believed that until the investments were restored by the Conservatives the policy had cost the pension fund £35m.
Cllr Mead said later: “The investments in the tobacco companies have been some of our best performers over the years.
“We have to have sufficient resources in the pension fund to ensure we can pay former employees so the burden does not fall on council taxpayers.”
Cllr Mead added: “What some people don’t realise is that buying shares does not mean the money goes to the companies.
“All we are doing is having a share in the success of the businesses.”
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