Working group set up to look into pensions investments

A working group has been set up by a committee overseeing the Merseyside Pension Fund to look into controversial investments in arms companies.

A pensions committee meeting was held at Birkenhead Town Hall on 11 December where concerns were raised by members of the public about the investments they said were linked to conflicts in Israel, Palestine, and Yemen. A protest of around 50 gathered for a rally before the meeting.

The decision to set up the group was unanimous though Green councillor Pat Cleary had asked for a report to be brought back in six months. This deadline was voted down as only one meeting was scheduled in that time period.

The working group will look into the pension fund’s investments in further detail every three months. It will also include those related to climate change and develop a framework for more responsible investments in the future.

Discussion around pension fund investments were first raised in 2021 with calls for a working group to be set up and advisors were later appointed. Cllr Pat Cleary said the new group was “a positive step forward” but urged the committee to move faster on the issue.”

Other councillors also raised concerns about deciding on the future of the investments without consulting the pension fund’s 140,000 members while others highlighted long-term investments may be difficult to back out of quickly.

Several questions were asked about the investments by members of the Liverpool Friends of Palestine over the course of the meeting and a leaflet was handed out to councillors highlighting investments in 13 companies that may have links to the development of weapons and their use in arms conflicts.

In a statement, one member of the public Piara Miah said, “By using money from our council tax, we have woven weapons manufacturing into the fabric of our society. How does that affect our attitudes towards war?”

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Julie McManus addressed the concerns but said information was not available about pension fund investments in armed conflicts. As chair of the pensions committee, she asked the party to look into this and to what extent they were connected to the defence trade, adding, “All right-minded individuals deplore the loss of life arising from conflict.”

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