FRACKING investments from Gloucestershire County Council has topped £78 million as its staff pension pot is ploughed into the controversial energy creating service.

Figures released this week by anti-fracking campaigners revealed that nearly 4 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 have urged councils to stop supporting the industry by removing investment.

Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth director of campaigns said: “The government backed the wrong horse.”

“Renewables have cleared the finishing line and have taken the cup while fracking is limping along on the first stretch.”

However, councils across the country continue to invest in fracking, which includes investments into companies involved in fracking, such as global giants Shell and Occidental.

Cllr Ray Theodoulou, deputy leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: “The primary duty of the Gloucestershire Pension Fund is to maximise the value of its investments which are made for the benefit of its many stakeholders, including the fund’s pensioners, current employee and employer contributors, and council tax payers.

“Whilst the 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, manage and report on risks that are financially material to the performance of the fund's investments, including risks arising from environmental factors."

"The Fund believes that engaging with the companies it is invested in to deliver long term change is a more appropriate approach than a blanket decision to divest from any particular group of companies.”

Other councils, such as Wiltshire Council, are also investing in fracking to fund their pensions, but is coming up against fierce opposition.

Cllr Rachel Smith (Green, Minchinhampton) said: "Pension funds are there to help provide a secure future for people when they reach older age.

"Investments in the fossil fuel industry run a very real risk of becoming stranded assets as globally we move towards clean and renewable energy sources.

"Investing in fossil fuels also destabilises our climate and threatens a safe future environment. Divestment from fossil fuels is the responsible thing for local authorities to do."

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.”

“Our world class regulations will ensure that shale exploration will maintain robust environmental standards and meet the expectations of local communities.”