Thursday, 11 February 2016

Pension funds, not ministers should decide where to invest their members’ money (Unison press release:

Pension funds, not ministers should decide where to invest their members’ money
(Unison press release:

Local government pension funds must be able to decide where to invest their money in the best interests of present and future pensioners, and should not have their investment decisions dictated by the government, says UNISON today (Thursday).
Ministers have drawn up plans to enable the 89 funds that make up the local government pension scheme (LGPS) to pool their combined assets so that they are large enough to invest in huge infrastructure projects.
To allow the LGPS funds to invest in big projects like new motorways, bridges or housing developments, the government wants to see the creation of wealth pools that are at least £25bn in size.
While UNISON is not opposed to the funds coming together so they can invest on a grander scale, the union is much less enthusiastic about the government being able to direct where scheme members’ money is invested.
It must be the combined funds – and not government ministers – that decide where to invest scheme members’ future incomes, in ways that are in their best interests, and not that of the government, says UNISON.
The union believes union-nominated representatives should be appointed to the new pool governance structures so that any investment works for the millions of teaching assistants, refuse collectors, homecare workers and other town hall workers whose pensions are held by the scheme, says UNISON.
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “Pension funds are supposed to invest for the benefit of fund members, and should not be used as a substitute for investment that should be coming from the public purse.
“Making pension funds plough their assets into the latest government initiative could very well mean poor returns for workers in the LGPS pension scheme. Funds should not have to risk gambling away their members’ retirement incomes by subsidising an infrastructure project that should be funded from government coffers or by the private sector.
“The local government pension scheme should not be a sovereign wealth fund for the government to spend as it sees fit.”
Notes to editors:
– A pensions briefing on the government plans is available here
– UNISON has long argued that the LGPS should be ‘cost transparent’ and welcomes the proposal that the asset pools should be. Transparency will allow funds to make significant improvements in investment returns, says UNISON.
– UNISON has argued that the LGPS should invest in line with European law, just like other pension funds, and should not be singled out for special intervention.
– The government is consulting on a ‘pooling’ of the LGPS funds and investment criteria. The consultation ends on 19 February 2016.
– The England/Wales LGPS Scheme Advisory Board, the Law Commission and UNISON have requested that the government apply the investment regulations applicable to all other pension funds in the UK and the European Union – EU Directive 41/2003 Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision (IORP).
– All UNISON press releases can be found
Media enquiries:
Alan Weaver T: 020 7121 5555 M: 07939 143310
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7121 5463 M: 07778 158175
Fatima Ayad T: 020 7121 5255 M: 07508 080383

Posted on28 January 2016

Another attack on local democracy? ccc blog

Another attack on local democracy?
Submitted by Claire on Wed, 2016/02/10 - 12:01pm

Divestment campaigners are worried that the government's current consultation on local authority pensions investment contains a significant attack on local democracy and ethical investment.
The main purpose of the proposed new rules will be to require local authorities to be more cost-effective by pooling their pension funds in larger groupings. But within the consultation are explicit restrictions on local authority ethical investment decisions. The main intent appears to be preventing boycotts of companies operating within the illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Divestment from the UK arms industry would also be forbidden: "using pensions and procurement policies to pursue boycotts, divestments and sanctions against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate" (Research in 2007 revealed local council pension funds to have over £300 million invested in BAE alone).

It is acknowledged that local authorities may have regard to "environmental, social and corporate governance matters". But when the government is seeking to restrict local authorities' investment choices to prevent disinvestment in some areas, it is hard to be confident that restrictions on fossil fuel divestment will not follow within guidance (as yet unpublished). If local authorities have to stick to central government policy and invest in UK arms companies, will government be any keener to allow them to divest from fracking? New regulations would give the Secretary of State the power to intervene if a local authority is deemed not to be following government guidance.
It has been calculated that local authorities' pension funds have altogether £14 billion invested into fossil fuel companies. Under pressure from local campaigns, some have taken the first steps towards divestment. Oxford council will make no further direct investments in fossil fuel companies. South Yorkshire pension fund committed to divest from coal and tar sands companies, Haringeyto divest from coal and invest a third of its funds in a low-carbon fund, and neighbouring Hackney are reviewing their fossil fuel investments. As global divestment campaigning has now led to over 500 institutions divesting, fully or partially, from fossil fuels, many more councils are expected to join these.
Alongside this, local councils can make positive investment decisions, for example in low carbon infrastructure such as locally owned renewable energy or public transport - divest to re-invest.
But will new restrictions put a brake on this?
The government's consultation states that in formulating their policies on investment and environmental, social and corporate governance matters, local authorities' "predominant concern should be the pursuit of a financial return on their investments". As Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, stated last year, the financial system has not responded adequately to threats posed by climate change, such as stranded assets in unburnable fossil fuels (the 'carbon bubble') partly because such risks are seen to be in a future beyond the normal business (and political) cycle. If any investments are obliged to take account of these long-term risks, it should be pension funds.

The consultation is open until 19 February. Several organisations have put together a joint e-action to allow you to submit a quick response. If you are able to spend a few minutes writing a response to the consultation in your own words (send to stressing the importance of democratic investment decisions made locally on ethical grounds in relation to fossil fuels as well as human rights, arms trade, and other issues of concern, this would have greater weight.
Please share widely with friends and networks - particularly those whose own pensions will be affected.
Why do we say this is 'another' attack on local democracy?
The government's localism rhetoric seems to be wearing thin when councils fail to endorse fracking in their area. David Cameron gave reassurances last summer that "decisions must be made by local authorities in the proper way, under the planning regime we have," but a few months later the Secretary of State announced that he was prepared to overrule Lancashire council on fracking. And a recently leaked letter revealed plans to remove decision-making powers from local councils, putting them in the hands of planning inspectors instead.

This follows previous measures to fast-track fracking planning applications. These are in stark contrast to restrictions placed on local authorities to make it much more difficult for them to approve onshore wind. It seems that only one of these industries is deemed 'in the national interest' - unfortunately it is the one which is a threat to our climate. 


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Support the Heathrow13 24/2/2016

My request is simple, please invite all your friends to the solidarity demonstration outside Willesden Magistrates' Court on Wednesday 24th of February at 9am, and share the event on your Facebook Timeline, in your emails, newsletters, blogs, website links, Facebook groups/pages and Twitter.

Facebook event for court solidarity:

Flyers can also be collected from Housman's Book Shop in King's Cross. Please consider changing your Facebook profile and/or cover pic.

Other things you can do if you have time:

1) Sign and share this petition set up by a friend of one of the activists

2) Send a solidarity photo!  
Solidarity photos have been flowing in from around the world. Send yours into info@planestupid and/or add them to the Facebook event page. 
3) Write a letter to your MP or local newspaper
Don’t forget, we need to make sure this builds into the opposition to new runways. Now is a crucial time in the Heathrow debate ahead of decision around June. Make sure to write to your MP and your local newspaper

4) Come to the Solidarity Shindig on 19th February near London Fields.

Let’s show our support and solidarity to this shocking response to peaceful protest, and keep the pressure on for no new runways. Plane Stupid are in it for the long haul. No ifs, no buts.

Twitter: @planestupid hashtag #Heathrow13


Monday, 8 February 2016

The murder of Giulio Regeni

The murder of Giulio Regeni is an attack on academic freedom
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The murder of Giulio Regeni

The body of Giulio Regeni was discovered in a ditch in Cairo on February 2, showing evidence of torture, and a slow and horrific death. Giulio was studying for a PhD at the University of Cambridge, and was carrying out research on the formation of independent trade unions in post-Mubarak Egypt.

A letter is being sent to Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi. It will be offered to The Guardian and the Italian media for publication and sent to the Egyptian authorities via the embassies in London and Rome. Please add your name via the link provided.
He vanished in the midst of a security campaign which has resulted in mass arbitrary arrests, a dramatic increase in reports of torture within police stations, and other cases of disappearances, according to documentation by local and international human rights organisations.
While we welcome the statement by Egyptian Ambassador to Italy, Amr Helmy, that the Egyptian authorities will fully investigate Giulio's death, we note that according to Amnesty International, bodies reporting to the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior and the Egyptian Ministry of Defence routinely practice the same kinds of torture that Giulio is reported to have suffered against hundreds of Egyptian citizens each year.
We therefore call on the Egyptian authorities to cooperate with an independent and impartial investigation into all instances of forced disappearances, cases of torture and deaths in detention during January and February 2016, alongside any ongoing investigations by criminal prosecutors into Giulio's death, in order that those responsible for these crimes can be identified and brought to justice.
Please add your name using the link below, any queries about the open letter should be sent to All signatures are in a personal capacity and institutional affiliations are noted for information only. Retired members may use their former institution or state that they are retired.

Copyright © 2016 UCU London Retired Members Branch, All rights reserved.
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Monday, 1 February 2016

LONDON 30/1/2016: march against the housing bill

 LONDON 30/1/2016: march against the housing bill

 The housing bill will benefit property developers and have a devastating effect on the availability of affordable housing. It's the exact opposite of what is necessary to ease the housing crisis. Everyone needs to do whatever they can to stop it.

 Published on 31 Jan 2016: acknowledgements to Lois Davis

Green left motion on Stop the War Campaign passed 12/12/2016

 'Green Left believes it is important to have a democratic anti-war coalition at both a national and local levels committed to involving all those groups and individuals wanting to campaign in a pluralist manner
 The existing national Stop the War Campaign (STWC) has lost its way and is in danger of being a hindrance to building maximum unity that is so needed to build the anti-war movements in the UK.

 Therefore Green Left would support a meeting of leading groups and individuals as soon as possible to discuss how best a pluralist and democratic anti-war movement can be run  and organised to maximise unity at this important time.'

#Heathrow13 sentencing protests

On Weds 24 February the #Heathrow13 <> will return to court for sentencing, having all been found guilty of aggravated trespass and entering the security restricted area of London Heathrow Airport’s (LHR) north runway to protest against plans for a third runway.

Following District Judge Deborah Wright’s comments to “expect jail time”, come and join Heathrow residents and others to say that climate justice is the only appropriate form of justice here, prison time for protecting the climate is a massive #Redline <>, and Stop Aviation, Stop Co2lonialism!

Come ready to express your solidarity, be it in song, spoken word, festival or dancing, as we co-create and animate our climate defence in support of the Heathrow 13. More details and itinerary to follow.

Note: the solidarity hashtag will be #Heathrow13, so please keep sending your support before and on the day!

Related: <> <> <> <>