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£2.7bn council pension fund aims to cut its carbon footprint to zero



Swansea Council’s award-winning pension fund has cut its carbon footprint by almost 60% and aims to go all the way to net carbon zero in the coming years.

The £2.7bn fund looks after the retirement funds of 47,000 members has already taken major steps to going net carbon zero by cutting the amount of cash invested in oil companies and other organisations with similarly-high carbon footprints.

And its main committee this week agreed that the fund would go net carbon zero by 2037, 13 years ahead of the UK as a whole.

Since 2017, the pension fund has managed to cut its carbon footprint by 58% thanks to a mix of disinvestment in carbon-rich businesses and investment in green and environment-friendly initiatives.

Now it has set out a plan to materially increase the proportion of investments that have a positive focus on the climate.

Currently just 7% of the fund’s investments has direct ties to fossil fuels and that will be cut to nil before 2037.

Clive Lloyd, chair of the Swansea Pension Fund committee, said: “The fund is delivering for its 47,000 members, it is delivering for the future of the planet.


“We were the first local government pension scheme in Wales – and among only a small number in the world – to commission a review of our equity investment portfolio to find out the exact extent of our carbon and fossil fuel related investments.

“Since then we have moved £0.5bn of assets into low carbon index tracking funds which has reduced further what was already a low level of investments in carbon-related industries.” 

The Swansea fund – which Swansea Council manages for Swansea, Neath Port Talbot as well as a number of other employers in the area – has already been recognised at the LAPF Investments Awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement by pension funds and service providers.

Swansea won the award for the fund with the Best Approach to Sustainable Investment in the UK in 2019. It’s also been nominated for Local Authority Pension Fund of The Year Best Climate Change Investment Strategy and Best Investment Innovation in this year’s awards, thanks to an equity protection programme that saved the fund £9m when the global equity market fell by -20% earlier this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak and also its carbon reduction total return swap programme which further reduced the portfolio’s carbon exposure.

Cllr Lloyd added: “In 2019 we passed a motion in Swansea declaring a Climate Emergency and we urged the UK government to do the same.


“We are making decisions and taking practical steps every day that are making a real difference but we know we can and we will do more. We are determined to make Swansea the most green and energy efficient council in Wales.”

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A quarter of Welsh people expect to experience poor physical or mental health this Christmas




christmas ornaments on christmas tree

Around one quarter of Welsh people expect to experience poor physical and/or mental health this Christmas, according to a survey of 2,000 people carried out by Censuswide for charity The Big Give.

The survey also found that nearly half of Wales residents (45%) may need to take on debt to cover the costs of Christmas this year.

That’s more than the UK national average, where 37% say they are concerned about incurring debt this Christmas.

Nearly two-thirds of Cardiff residents (60%) said they are worried about the cost of Christmas this year.

A campaign organised by the Big Give and backed by celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Dame Judi Dench, Russell Brand and others is aiming to help. The Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s biggest Christmas coordinated fundraising appeal, is supporting over 900 charities to raise funds with the unique offer of matching any donations made during the week of 30th November – 7th December.

Derek Spinks, marketing and communication manager at Carmarthen-based national charity Cerebra, which helps children with brain conditions and their families discover a better life together said: “We are delighted to, once again, be a part of The Big Give Christmas Challenge. It’s a great opportunity for us to double our donations, and essentially deliver twice the impact!”

Vanessa Waddon, Founder and Transformational Manager at Hope Rescue in Llanharan said: ‘The Big Give is a brilliant festive opportunity to connect with our supporters to raise funds for projects that will improve the lives of the dogs, that through no fault of their own, find themselves in our care. This year we are aiming to raise vital funds that will keep our Home from Home Kennels running in early 2022. The reconfiguration work on our Home from Home Kennels to make additional room for those dogs with extra needs has been on our list for some time and we were thrilled to be able to get started on this in 2021.


“The funds raised from the #ChristmasChallenge2021 will help us to kit out the kennels with all essentials to support those dogs, with the greatest need. Over the last 18 months we have seen more and more dogs entering our care with medical and behavioural needs, often both. Our Home from Home Kennels provide dogs with these needs the space they need to rehabilitate, relax, recover and learn to trust again before going on to the life that they deserve.

“We know we can’t change their past, but we can change their future. Christmas really is an extraordinary time of giving and we look forward to spreading the magic in this year’s campaign.”

Alex Day, Director of The Big Give said: “Our study shows that, sadly, people across Wales and the UK in general, are facing an imperfect storm; High fuel prices, chronic mental health problems, rising debt, loneliness and fears about Covid-19 will mean that, for many, this festive period will be a far cry from picture perfect scenes portrayed on Christmas cards.

“Some will rely on charities which will be further and further stretched as demand grows.

“That is why, for those who can, supporting charities is more important than ever. Through The Christmas Challenge campaign, we are offering to match any donation made to hundreds of amazing charities through h That means whatever you can give will go twice as far.”

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Barclays confirms closure of bank branches in Gorseinon and Port Talbot




Barclays has confirmed the permanent closure of its Gorseinon and Port Talbot bank branches as part of its swath of almost 50 branch closures across the UK.

The bank has said the closures are largely due to changes in customer banking habits, and more use of online banking.

The Gorseinon branch is due to close on Friday 11 February 2022.

Barclays say the number of counter transactions at the Gorseinon branch has gone down in the two years to March 2020, with 83% of branch customers also using other ways to do their banking such as online and by telephone – something which has increased by 12% since 2015.

The bank also says that in the past 12 months 38% of Gorseinon branch customers have been using other nearby branches, with only 83 customers use this branch exclusively for their banking.

Barclays Bank, Port Talbot (Image: Geograph / Jaggery)

The last day of trading for the Port Talbot branch of Barclays will be on Friday 25 February 2022.

Once it closes, the nearest Barclays branch for people living in Port Talbot will be five miles away on The Parade in Neath, or eight miles away at the Enterprise Park in Llansamlet. Customers can also do some banking services at the nearest post office on Station Road in Port Talbot.

Barclays says the Port Talbot branch is closing as, similarly to to Gorseinon, counter transactions have gone down in the two years to March 2020 and 85% of branch customers also use other ways to do their banking such as online and by telephone.


In the past 12 months 22% of this branch’s customers have been using other nearby branches, with only 153 customers use this branch exclusively for their banking.

Lead image: Barclays Gorseinon (Image: Geograph / Jaggery)

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Fourteen celebrities sign up to Martin Lewis’ letter to PM to put scam adverts into Online Safety Bill




A group of trusted household names, public figures and celebrities, including Martin Lewis OBE, Sir Richard Branson, Deborah Meaden, Duncan Bannatyne OBE, Peter Jones CBE, Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Dawn French and Robbie Williams, have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for paid-for scam advertising to urgently be included in the upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Led by Martin Lewis – founder of campaigning consumer website (MSE) and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute – the signees of the letter have all had their names and faces used by scammers in online advertising, often thousands of times, luring victims into fraudulent financial schemes or ‘selling’ fake health cures.

Currently, there are few meaningful powers to prevent scam adverts from appearing online, and regulators are unable to punish the big tech platforms that get paid to publish them. Some victims have lost life-changing amounts of money, even their life savings (sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of pounds), because they trusted the reputations of the people used on the adverts.

Lewis, Branson and Meaden are among some of the most-used faces in online fraud according to Action Fraud and the National Cyber Security Centre. Alongside them, those who have also been used by scammers and who have signed the letter are Duncan Bannatyne OBE, Rob Brydon MBE, Dawn French, Bear Grylls OBE, Peter Jones CBE, Lorraine Kelly CBE, Davina McCall, Phillip Schofield, Bradley Walsh, Robbie Williams and Holly Willoughby.

Martin Lewis, MSE and Money and Mental Health, among other consumer and industry organisations, have been campaigning to protect the public from an avalanche of scam adverts, and in the face of inaction from tech firms, have been calling on the Government to include paid-for scam advertising in its flagship Online Safety Bill.

To date, the Home Secretary and current and former Culture Secretaries have said the Government wants to tackle online advertising fraud separately to this piece of legislation. Meanwhile, huge swathes of people will continue to see their financial, physical and mental health destroyed after falling victim to scams they see through online advertising. This letter is urging the Prime Minister to change this position and finally put paid-for scam advertising in the Bill.

Martin Lewis, founder of and the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “Right now, the Government’s planned Online Safety Bill isn’t just blindly ignoring the epidemic of scam adverts that the UK faces – it’s actually going to make it worse. By making big tech responsible for user-generated scams but not paid-for scam adverts, it creates an incentive for criminal scammers to switch to advertising. To say it will look at scam ads regulation later, likely years away, when this regulation will make it worse, is simply perverse. We can’t wait. 


“Scams don’t just steal people’s money, they can take their self-respect too, and those with mental health problems are three times more likely to be affected.

“After hearing excuse after excuse from the Government departments responsible for this legislation, I now turn to the Prime Minister and plead with him to take this opportunity to put paid-for scam ads in the Online Safety Bill – so big tech is responsible for what they’re paid to publish. Only then will they take it seriously and deny scammers the airtime.

“In some ways I regret the fact his face isn’t being used as well as mine and the other signatories of this letter. If it was, I doubt we’d be having such a difficulty persuading the Government of the importance of this.

“Failure to tackle this, and tackle it now, will betray his Government’s promise to create world-leading online protection and, more importantly, will cost more people their livelihoods, and their physical and mental health too.”

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said: “We know there has been a sharp rise in scams since the start of the pandemic, and it’s deeply concerning that people may be tricked into parting with their money by someone pretending to be me. This is a global issue, and we are doing all we can to unmask scammers, but we can only do this by working together and ensuring the public are protected from these terrifyingly deceptive tactics. The Online Safety Bill is a positive step forward for the UK, but it’s essential that paid-for scam advertising is included as part of this new legislation.”


Dragon’s Den investor Deborah Meaden said: “With the growing sophistication of online fraud, it has becoming glaringly obvious that the Government needs to now step in to stop criminals taking advantage of people and destroying their finances. 

“For too long, people have fallen victim to scams because they trusted that myself and others were behind these false ads. It’s not enough for us to warn people through the press and media, something needs to be done to stop the ads appearing in the first place. Online scam advertising must be regulated and it must be included in the Online Safety Bill.”

Duncan Bannatyne OBE said: “Back in 2016, my name was used to promote a high-risk currency investment. This carried on for a while and then the scammers moved on to other celebrities, reportedly including Richard Branson, Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones.

“It is outrageous that there are few regulatory powers to curb this type of criminal behaviour and I fully support the call to the Prime Minister for paid-for scam advertising to be urgently included in the upcoming Online Safety Bill. Too many innocent people have lost money and too many well-known people have had their identities used in this erroneous way.”

(Lead image: Virgin Group)

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