FRACKING investment from Wiltshire Council has topped £37.6m as its staff pension pot is ploughed into the controversial energy creating service.

Figures released today by anti-fracking campaigners revealed that 1.73 per cent of the council staff pension pot has been invested into fracking companies and, across the country, £9bn has been handed over by councils.

Although there are no applications to begin fracking in the county, Friends of the Earth and other environment charities urged councils to stop supporting the industry by removing investment.

Yvonne Forsey, of Sustainable Devizes, said: “Wiltshire Council should be setting an example by divesting in fracking. There are some other councils and universities which have done this and are paving the way.

“The government wants to take the planning decision away from local councils about fracking, but councils have their own experts who know the area who should be allowed to make the decision.”

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, said: “I am appalled to learn that the trustees of Wiltshire Council are investing any of their fund in companies that rely on fracking.

“But it is also financially irresponsible because carbon assets are rapidly losing their value as we move towards a renewable energy future.”

Nick Pratt, of Warminster from Keep Wiltshire Frack Free, added: “It’s shocking to see Wiltshire Council investing pension funds into the fracking industry. Fracking threatens communities, destroys local landscapes, and fuels climate change across the globe. As this industry tries to get a foothold in the UK, it’s crucial that our councils take a clear stand against fracking and divest from the companies responsible.”

A spokesman from the Wiltshire Pension Fund said: “The Wiltshire Pension 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 social, environmental and ethical issues, and to manage and report on risks that are financially material to the performance of the fund. That includes 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 effect long-term change is more appropriate than a blanket decision to divest from any particular group of companies.”

Devizes MP and Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry gave the go-ahead for fracking to start in this country in July as the Preston New Road site in Lancashire was told it could open.

At the time Mrs Perry said: “Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, further enhancing our energy security and helping us with our continued transition to a lower-carbon economy. It also has the capacity to deliver substantial economic benefits, both nationally and locally, as well as through the creation of well paid, high-quality jobs.

“We already have an excellent, long-standing reputation for safe oil and gas exploration. Our world class regulations will ensure that shale exploration will maintain robust environmental standards and meet the expectations of local communities.”