New data from WSCC’s pension fund shows the council holds investments in Cuadrilla Resources, Igas and Celtique Energie. All have drilling prospects in the county. By packaging and re-packaging its investments the Council attempts to deny its complicity, yet by clearing the financial foliage a cash trail becomes apparent – one which connects WSCC straight to the companies it is charged with overseeing.
WSCC staff are required to declare “an interest … affected by any business, operational procedure, contract, planning application or any other matter being or expected to be considered by the Council.”
It is clear that WSCC’s investments in Igas, Cuadrilla and Celtique Energie constitute an interest. The Council, however sees no obligation to declare the same interests as its staff.
WSCC pension fund invests £187,000,000 into what’s called a pooled fund run by Ballie Gifford & Co.
Ballie Gifford & Co are the second largest shareholder in driller Igas, which has three license blocks in Sussex. Ballie Giffiord & Co own 6.09m shares in Igas, or 2.98% of the company.
Via Ballie Gifford, WSCC has thus lent substantial cash to Igas (amongst others). WSCC Officers are constitutionally required to generate a financial return on this investment, as best they can. Hence the Council has a direct conflict of interest between its financial interests in Igas and Igas’ planning applications.
WSCC also has financial dealings with Cuadrilla Resources, via a fund known as Pantheon Pantheon USA Fund VIII. This link shows Pantheon holds $43m of investments in another fund called Riverstone/ Carlyle Global Power Fund IV, which part owns Cuadrilla. WSCC admits that their holdings in Pantheon constitute an investment into Cuadrilla Resources.
WSCC invests more than £106,000,000 into various Pantheon investments, hence once again we find WSCC providing cash to companies operating in Sussex that it’s overseeing.
A second business link between WSCC and Cuadrilla is through the latter’s partner: Centrica PLC.
In 2013 Centrica bought a share in Cuadrilla’s Lancashire operation, known PEDL 165. WSCC owns nearly £4m of shares in Centrica, and hence co-owns 25% of Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking block.
The trail of WSCC investments also leads to Fernhurst fracker Celtique Energie. Once again we find that WSCC’s investment in Pantheon links them straight to Celtique’s door.
A leading shareholder in Celtique is Avista Capital Partners. Avista have received nearly £9m from WSCC-supported Pantheon (see above); part of that sum comes from WSCC.
Be it shares, loans, or via second or third parties, WSCC invests widely in fracking companies. The money flows indirectly into drilling companies and via various routes, yet WSCC has a direct financial interest in the success of fracking in Sussex.
The County council is clearly hoping it can hide its financial secrets in the financial undergrowth.