CIVIC chiefs have been slammed after investing tens of millions of pounds from their pension fund in fracking companies.

New data from environmental campaign group Platform has shown that Dorset County Council’s pension fund has invested £77.8 million (2.1 per cent of the total fund) in fracking companies.

The fund provides the pensions of mainly local government employees in Dorset and has more than over 54,000 members and assets of £2.35 billion. This includes members of the district councils partnership.

Platform and submitted Freedom of Information requests to unearth the data.

Fracking is the process of drilling underground and blasting a mix of chemicals and water into the earth to fracture rock and extract shale gas.

Supporters argue it is critical the UK finds another source of energy, while critics of the procedure say it is dangerous and can cause minor earthquakes.

Deirdre Duff, divestment campaigner on behalf of Friends of the Earth groups including West Dorset, said: “Dorset councils should know better than to invest in fracking companies.

“These companies are inflicting their fracking operations on communities around the world, and this can have significant impacts.

“Many UK councils have rightly opposed fracking in their own area – however, it is shocking that they still support the global fracking industry.”

Ruth Jarman, a board member of Operation Noah, a Christian climate change charity, suggested councils should be investing in companies that do not cause climate change – such as renewables.

Cllr Jeff Cant, leader of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said any decision on investments on fracking are down to the pension fund managers.

In response, Richard Bates, Dorset Pension Fund Administrator defended the investment saying the decision to invest in fracking was strongly considered.

He added: “The primary duty of the pension fund is to maximise the value of its investments which are made for the benefit of its many stakeholders, including the fund’s pensioners, current employee and employer contributors, and council tax payers.

“Any investment decisions will take into consideration the risks associated with that investment, including those risks relating to environmental factors such as those highlighted in this report.

“Whilst the fund does not place restrictions on its investment managers in choosing individual investments in companies or sectors, it does require those investment managers to consider, manage and report on risks that are financially material to the performance of the fund’s investments, including risks arising from environmental factors such as fracking and other fossil fuel extraction activities.

“The fund believes that engaging with the companies it is invested in to deliver long-term change is a more appropriate approach than a blanket decision to divest from any particular group of companies.”