Suffolk stubbs it out

044cigarettebuttLast Thursday I was up early to head to London for a meeting at the LGA in Smith Square before rushing back to Ipswich via Liverpool Street Station to be as Suffolk County Council’s Full Council Meeting. I recalled that I must have done the same round of meetings last year as once again I found myself on a train stuffed full of festival goers looking forward to Suffolk’s Latitude Festival.

The Full Council was equally eventful as one Councillor passed out, due to the stifling heat of the very poorly ventilated Council Chamber. Somehow we seemed to have been collectively moaning about this since I became a Councillor yet no one seems to have solved the problem. At the meeting, in addition to it being boiling hot, we had one of those small moments in time, when we did something of some significance.

Disappointingly it was a Labour motion, with our contribution consigned to an amendment to the wording to make it achievable, but hey it was tabled and we debated that Suffolk should no longer hold tobacco stocks as an investment class in its pension fund and become a signatory to the Local Government Association Declaration on Tobacco Control.

I say disappointing because we should have lead the charge on this as we have had ample time to prepare something, not least because I raised the matter a few weeks ago after having a presentation from PHE, ASH and ADASS at the LGA Community Wellbeing Board meeting on 11th June discussing their commitment to ask councils up and down the land to agree to their charter which includes withdrawing from Tobacco stocks as a part of a pension investment portfolio. I said then it was a political issue and one we needed to react to quickly, Labour beat us to it.

A quality debate took place ranging from the evils of smoking and its sheer danger to your and everyone else’s health, to the independence of the pension fund to invest in what it likes being sacrosanct, to given that we are now the body with the Statutory Duty for Public Health the holding of tobacco stocks is perverse in this context. This latter position won the day and now Suffolk leads the way and sets the agenda for much of the rest of Local Government to follow.

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