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Powys pension fund has investments with Israeli firms

POWYS County Council has confirmed that it has some investments with Israel based companies.

Last month, the Open Democracy website published an article based on information from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign which claimed that 52 of 86 Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) in Wales and England have investments worth £1.1 billion with firms supplying armaments to Israel.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign the Powys Pension Fund has over £9 million invested in companies that supply weapons, technology, and equipment to Israel.

Council chairwoman Cllr Beverley Baynham said: “We are all aware of the horrific conflict Israel is inflicting on Gaza and the devastation caused to Palestinian people.

“It has been reported that a large number of pension schemes have funds invested in companies supplying weapons or systems to Israel.

“Could the head of service investigate if Powys has money invested with any such companies, and if so, confirm this will cease.”

Cllr Beverley Baynham (Pic: Powys County Council)

Newly promoted director of corporate services and s151 officer, Jane Thomas said: “The Powys Pension Fund invests using pooled funds such as via the Wales Pension Partnership (WPP) and indirectly, through pooled investments, has exposure to a small number of Israeli based companies.

“The WPP does not currently exercise any exclusionary policies in respect of any stocks it can potentially invest in.”

Ms Thomas explained that since 2020 work on behalf of WPP has included contacting companies over human rights “due diligence for conflict affected and high risk areas” which includes the Palestinian territories.

Ms Thomas said: “The Powys Pension Fund is also a member of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), has also been undertaking similar work.

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“Following the decision of the UK Government to impose financial sanctions on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, the WPP subsequently implemented a disinvestment of its Russian stocks.”

But any move by the council to disinvest in Israeli companies or those providing support to them could be stopped by new legislation.

Jane Thomas – Head of Finance (Pic: Powys County Council)

In January, the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill was backed by MPs in the House of Commons and is currently in the House of Lords being scrutinised by peers.

If this bill makes it onto the statute books, public bodies will not be allowed to boycott Israeli companies or those providing support to them.

According to the UK Government the purpose of the bill is that public bodies should not be taking decisions that: “conflict with UK Government foreign policy.”