The £3.2billion Dorset Pension Fund has again been asked to speed up the withdrawal from fossil fuel industries.

Protesters claimed that the continued investment continues to impact on the health of everyone.

The committee which oversees the fund said that it has changed its investment strategy, although protesters say this is falling far short from totally dis-investing in carbon funds.

A series of questions to the pension committee online on Thursday pressed for evidence of what has been done.

Last summer protesters claimed that about 7% of the Dorset pension pot is invested in fossil fuel companies, with a value of around £140million, or £3,000 each for the of the fund’s 47,000 members of the scheme who either pay into the fund or receive a pension.

Committee chairman Cllr Andy Canning told the meeting that much of the Dorset fund is now managed by Brunel Pension Partnership which includes nine local authorities across the South West.

He said the £30 billion Brunel fund was considered to be among the leaders in ethical investments and actively looked to invest in companies which were trying to find solutions to climate change.

Cllr Canning said that the current position of the Dorset fund was not to totally dis-invest from certain sectors, but to gradually reduce its investments in fossil fuel-based funds.

He said that total dis-investment removed the fund’s abilities to influence those companies.

The meeting heard that around 10 per cent of the Dorset pension fund was now in Brunel’s sustainable equities fund and that Brunel had no investments in coal-based industries.

Cllr Canning said that the fund’s investment policies were constantly open to review and could be changed.

The meeting heard that despite the pandemic and disruption on global markets the fund continued to perform well when benchmarked against similar funds but was also facing what was described as ‘a log-jam’ of legislation which, in the future, might affect the way it operates.

The meeting heard that for the quarter ending in December 2020 the fund delivered a 7per cent return, compared to the 5.9per cent benchmark figure and for the whole year was at 3%, ahead of the benchmark return of 2.8%.

The estimated value of the pension fund’s assets at the end of December 2020 was £3.26 billion compared to £2.69 billion at the start of the financial year. A report said that this has been driven by rises across all listed markets after the falls in March 2020 in reaction to the impact of COVID 19.

During the year the Dorset fund has moved around £150m out of the UK equities market, switching largely to global equity investments.