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Kent County Council quizzed Neil Woodford in private meeting last year before investment fund frozen

By Paul Francis

Kent County Council quizzed the investment fund manager Neil Woodford at a private meeting in November last year amid concerns about its £263m pension investment with his company, it has emerged.

Last week, the council was blocked from withdrawing money it put into the Woodford Equity Income Fund as part of its pension scheme, after Mr Woodford suspended trading in it.

That suspension was announced last Monday, the day on which the council sought to redeem its money.

Kent County Council's headquarters County Hall
Kent County Council's headquarters County Hall

KentOnline also understands Mr Woodford has agreed to attend an emergency meeting of the committee that oversees the pension fund in the next two weeks.

However, we can reveal that it is not the first time he has been questioned over the fund’s performance.

Members of the council’s superannuation fund committee asked to meet Mr Woodward to question him about the poor performance of the fund. The meeting in November was held in private.

But despite reservations expressed by some members of the committee, no immediate action was taken and the county council’s investment with the firm stayed in place.

It was agreed to review the situation in March.

It is understood the decision to ask Mr Woodford to attend was triggered by concerns about the underperformance of the fund.

KentOnline understands after the November meeting, some members of the superannuation fund committee had wanted to recommend withdrawing funds.

A source said: “After meeting with Woodford the actual discussion within the committee was put off until March.

"Several members were keen that we remove our holdings, or at least a portion of them.”

The source added: “We were concerned that holding 6% of one fund left us with a problem.”

Minutes from the meeting state that after a presentation by Mr Woodford and a colleague: “They then answered questions of detail from the committee, including redemptions, the predicted effects of Brexit and the company’s research strategy.”

The information was “noted” say the minutes.

A statement issued by the council last week stated: “At this stage there is no loss to the pension fund, and whatever the outcome there will be no impact on the council’s cash reserves or service provision.”

Mr Woodford has issued a public apology over the suspension of trading in the fund.

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