West unitary confirms £13m Qatar investments
Council’s finance boss says the investments will mature soon and re-investment is not expected
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By Sarah Ward
West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has confirmed it has invested £13m of local taxpayers cash in Qatar’s state bank, after a Guardian report named it among councils putting money into the controversial World Cup hosting nation.
The investments from local councils, which the Guardian estimates could be as much as £1.2bn, have come under the spotlight ahead of the World Cup, which starts in the middle eastern nation this weekend.
Many have questioned whether the lucrative sporting event should be held in Qatar due to its laws banning homosexuality, women’s rights and the death of many migrant workers during the football stadium builds.
A freedom of information request by the Guardian, found that many local authorities, who have in recent years championed LGBTQ causes, have been investing their money into Qatar National Bank. The bank has helped fund the tournament, which is costing £220bn.
The Guardian report did not say how much WNC had invested in Qatar and NN Journal asked the authority for the figure.
The council’s executive director for finance Martin Henry, said:
“We can confirm the council currently has £13m of short-term investments in the Qatar International Bank which were placed in line with our investment policies.
“These investments begin to mature next month and when they do, we will review where any re-investment is placed but we do not expect to re-invest them in the same bank.
“We are proud of the diversity of our communities and support and celebrate inclusivity and fairness for all.”
The council uses Link Group, for its treasury management, which is the overseeing of borrowing, investments and cash flow.
In the latest report to the cabinet from September the report said that the ‘average level of funds available for the first quarter of this financial year was £150m. It said:.
“The Council held £69m of liquid cash balances and £85.4m of short term investments expected to mature during the year.
The council’s corporate overview and scrutiny committee set up a task and finish group earlier this year to look at the council’s treasury management, as the councillors wanted to know more about how the money was being invested.
Committee member and leader of the Liberal Democrat group Sally Beardsworth said she was shocked to discover the authority’s money had been invested in Qatar, as the task and finish group had asked Link Group staff at an online meeting last month if any money had been invested in non-ethical countries.
“They assured us there was nothing,” she said. Although recalls the questioning being asked about nations such as Russia rather than specifically Qatar.
“I thought we were going to a ‘good’ council. Not investing in these people that have anti LGBTQ problems. It was fixed (the awarding of the world cup to Qatar). It is totally wrong. It is going to stop some people from going because of fear of how they will be treated.”
Following the Guardian article, the task and finish group will pause and revisit its report, which was due to be signed off.
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