About time, by George

George Knox'Local government officer - East Lothian
George Knox'Local government officer - East Lothian

After a controversial three-year saga, George Knox’s £420,000 bequest is finally trickling from Scottish Borders Council to Galashiels’ elderly.

Philanthropic George Knox, a former clerk to Galashiels Town Council who died aged 93 in 2009, bequeathed £419,942.10 “for the benefit of older people in the town through the Galashiels Local Relief Fund (GLRF) or otherwise at the discretion of the council”.

The fund has been held by SBC ever since. But now, it has agreed to pass the fund’s income to the GLRF, on condition it amends its constitution to include one Gala councillor on its executive committee. In the meantime, the council has invested the money “to secure improved returns”, on an “agreed longer-term strategy”.

Former Scottish Borders Council convener Drew Tulley, a close friend and executor of George Knox’s will, welcomed the release.

He said: “We are pleased the money is now being properly invested, and available to those who need it. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s been a long time coming.”

In June Christine Grahame MSP criticised Scottish Borders Council (SBC) for being slow to distribute Mr Knox’s fund, which could have already been earning interest, or gone to help those who need it.

She said: “I am sure Mr Knox would not be happy to see this money sitting dormant when it could be benefiting the elderly in Galashiels, which was his wish.”

Last August, Mr Tulley also attacked the council’s handling of what it called “an extraordinary act of generosity”, claiming in the two years since Knox’s death, SBC should have raised £20,000 in interest, instead of earning just £3,000.

He said: “I know of five privately-run trusts that are earning money at four per cent per year, while the George Knox Fund in the hands of the council is getting less than one per cent.

“The council is failing in its statutory duty to make sure funds are adequately invested.”

In June 2011, SBC plans to use the six-figure sum to convert a wing of the then troubled Waverley Care Home into a Healthy Living Centre, with spa and gym, were also ditched after a three-month public consultation found no clear consensus. But neither, claimed their report, was there conclusive support for the money to be given for dispersal to the Galashiels Local Relief Fund (GLRF).

Mr Tulley had rubbished the healthy living centre, claiming Mr Knox would not have wanted his legacy used to support the revenue spending of the council on “a half-baked scheme which is not targeted on the needy”.