The Green Party Group on Brighton & Hove City Council today issued a press statement opposing the government’s proposals to veto ethical investment decisions by local councils. They have also signed a letter to Tory ministers from all Green Party local councillors in the UK, opposing the proposed ban.
This is just one part of the growing opposition to this blatant attack on local democracy. An important driver for the proposal is the Tories’ determination to reassure the israeli regime that it will not tolerate decisions by local councils that result in divestment from companies complicit in israeli war crimes and human rights abuses. This is clear from the fact that the government announced its plans in Israel. But the impact will be more far-reaching, and will severely restrict the autonomy of councils and other bodies from making ethics-led investments with respect to arms companies, tobacco companies, fossil fuel companies and so on. You can find out more here.
Here is the text of the press release:
Brighton & Hove City Council
Green Group of councillors
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Green Councillors warn of government power-grab on pensions investment
Feb 18th, 2016
Tomorrow (Friday) is the last day of the Government consultation on investment guidelines for local government pension schemes. The proposals, which have been in development for the last two years, will give central government veto power over investment decisions made by local authorities.
The proposals follow a statement in October that the government would introduce new rules, to stop “politically motivated boycott and divestment campaigns”, such as campaigns to divest from the UK defence industry. The powers would allow Government ministers to override ethical investment policies agreed by democratically elected local councillors.
Green councillors in Brighton & Hove are joining fellow Greens across the country to write to Government ministers opposing these proposals, branding them an attack on local democracy and decision-making, which goes against the Government’s commitment to localism and devolution.
Green councillor and Convenor of the Green group, Phelim Mac Cafferty said:
“These proposals are a shameless attack on local democracy by a government determined to protect its unethical foreign policy and pillaging of the natural environment. Having recognised the growing tide of resistance from local communities against issues from military action in Syria to fracking, the Tories are trying to clamp down on any dissenting voices.
“Over the last 2 years of consultation and policy development on pensions investment, a consistent message has been the importance of preserving accountability by ensuring elected councillors can decide where local authority pensions are invested. Now at the 11th hour we see a naked power-grab by central government to override local decisions.
“This will remove our ability to ensure investments are not only financially viable, but also ethical and sustainable. With a total fund value of the East Sussex Pension Fund standing at £2.6bn, our investment decisions can be a powerful tool in driving social change. It is essential that these decisions remain in the hands of local residents”.