Sunday, 27 December 2015

Local councils do not set foreign policy and the pension funds aren't our money to play politics with


The government proposes to prevent local councillors from using council funds to conduct political campaigns. And to prevent those same councillors from conducting those political campaigns using the savings of public sector pension fund members.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has confirmed it is drawing up new guidelines to prevent local authorities from mounting their own “boycott and sanction” campaigns.

The directions, which will be issued early in the new year, are expected to make clear that councils’ procurement and investment policies must be consistent with UK government foreign policy.

What is being made very clear here is that local councils - as a part of the UK's government - do not set foreign policy. This isn't simply because we're a bunch of numpties who don't know enough (or have access to the necessary information) to make sensible judgments about foreign policy. It's because if every diddy little town council decided whether or not we liked Israel there's a real confusion out there as to what exactly is UK foreign policy.

So if campaign groups want to change UK foreign policy, the right way to do this is to persuade members of parliament to vote accordingly or, failing that, to get people who will vote according ly elected.

A similar intention - making sure that those councillors don't play politics with the retirement funds of the council's staff - is equally welcome. The duty of the council, as a trustee for those pension fund members, is to secure the best return for those members. If this can be done without investing in Israel, fags, booze or guns that's fine but it has to be clear that any decision isn't a political one determined by the prejudice of councillors not the interests of pension fund members.

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