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East Sussex County Council using the East Sussex Pension Fund to shield fossil fuels, outside County Hall, Lewes on 10 May 2022. PHOTO: Katie Vandyck

ESCC leader rejects call to back windfall tax on Big Oil

Today at County Hall, Lewes, the leader of East Sussex County Council (ESCC) rejected a call to back a windfall tax on Big Oil, as climate campaigners staged a theatrical protest outside demanding that ESCC stop shielding the giant fossil fuel companies that are reaping huge windfall profits from the war in Ukraine. Divest East Sussex writes.

During this morning’s Council meeting, Green Councillor Georgia Taylor (Forest Row & Groombridge) called on ESCC leader Keith Glazier (Cons, Rye and Eastern Rother) to write to the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to say that East Sussex supports a windfall tax on the UK oil and gas industry. Cllr Glazier rejected the call, saying there was no consensus for such a move among Conservative Councillors. (See the webcast here.)

Meanwhile climate campaigners staged a mock stand-off outside County Hall, between ‘ESCC’ and demonstrators demanding a windfall tax on Big Oil – with ESCC using a giant shield labelled ‘East Sussex Pension Fund’ to defend the oil, coal and gas industries (also played by costumed actors).

East Sussex County Council using the East Sussex Pension Fund to shield fossil fuels, outside County Hall, Lewes on 10 May 2022. PHOTO: Katie Vandyck

In March the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng rejected calls for a windfall tax on North Sea oil firms to fund discounted energy bills arguing that ‘”such a move would penalise anyone with a pension invested in those companies”.

According to a recent analysis from Greenpeace, the UK oil and gas industry looks set to make a wartime windfall profit of £11.6bn this year. They note that a windfall tax on this £11.6bn of additional profits “could provide six million households experiencing fuel poverty with one-off payments of £1,100 pounds each. This would leave £5bn to invest in the nationwide roll-out of heat pumps, insulation and other energy efficiency measures – fulfilling an outstanding pledge from the 2019 Conservative manifesto – as well as increasing investment in renewable energy infrastructure in order to increase energy capacity.”

The East Sussex Pension Fund, which is administered by East Sussex County Council, has long been a focus for climate campaigners. The Fund currently has tens of millions of pounds of local people’s pension monies invested in the giant oil and gas companies, like Shell and BP, that are driving the climate crisis.

The Fund’s reported ‘fossil fuel exposure(see page 25 in linked document) as at 31 March 2021 was £82.2m. However, this figure has fallen since then, following recent decisions by the Committee. According to a recent document circulated by the Fund, its actual exposure to fossil fuel producers may now be as low as 0.5%. As at 31 December 2021 the Fund was valued at £4.741bn (of which 0.5% would be equivalent to £23.7m).

“Because of the lack of support for low income families, the cost of living crisis looks set to push 1.3m people into absolute poverty next year,” said a Divest East Sussex campaigner. “A windfall tax on the UK oil and gas industry’s projected £11.6bn of wartime windfall profits could prevent this and help to turbocharge the insulation of the UK’s millions of draughty homes. It’s time for ESCC to stop shielding Big Oil from such a tax and to finally make a public commitment to fully divest from these rogue companies that are trashing our planet.”

East Sussex County Council using the East Sussex Pension Fund to shield fossil fuels, outside County Hall, Lewes on 10 May 2022. PHOTO: Katie Vandyck

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Posted 14:17 Tuesday, May 10, 2022 In: Campaigns


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  1. DAR

    We shall need North Sea oil/gas for a while yet, but I don’t see why this should exclude a windfall tax given these massive profits.

    Comment by DAR — Friday, May 13, 2022 @ 14:35

  2. Remus

    Quite right: it’s a stupid idea.
    We’re going to need oil for quite a few years, so suck it up, kiddywinks.

    Comment by Remus — Tuesday, May 10, 2022 @ 20:29

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