Tulley demands answers on how common good funds are operated

FORMER Scottish Borders Council convener Drew Tulley has launched a scathing attack on the council’s handling of common good funds.

Mr Tulley told Galashiels Community Council that the town’s £110,000 common good fund was losing cash because it was earning insufficient interest.

He has called on the community council to invite the current leader of Scottish Borders Council (SBC), David Parker, and chief executive, Tracey Logan, to its next meeting to explain why the fund is not generating significant sums for the community.

According to SBC, which administers the account, the net cost of doing so was £626 in 2011/12, compared with a revenue balance interest of £115, along with £564 received from other trusts in the town.

This was despite SBC agreeing in December to adopt an investment strategy, including the appointment of a financial adviser, to maximise returns for the region’s eight common good funds.

Mr Tulley said: “This is nine months later and still nothing has been done. I think the chief executive and the leader of SBC should come and explain why they can’t get an adequate return. I know of one local fund which has £50,000 and which earns £2,600 a year return.

“The council should hang their heads in shame. This has been going on for eight years and every town in the Borders should be up in arms and forcing their councillors to do something.

“Whether it is £40,000 or £12.50 left to look after a grave, that money should be invested. It is millions of pounds we are talking about across the Borders.”

Councillor John Mitchell, depute leader with responsibility for finance, said: “A report will be submitted to the council early in the autumn setting out proposals for the procurement of an external investment manager(s) to improve common good investment returns.”

Mr Tulley also claimed SBC should have raised £20,000 so far from the £420,000 left by George Knox, former town clerk of Galashiels who died in May 2010.

Instead, only £3,000 has been generated from the money left “for the benefit of older people in the town through the Galashiels Local Relief Fund or otherwise at the discretion of the council”.

Controversial plans to use the bequest to build a healthy living centre for pensionerst were ruled out last year after a public consultation.

Mr Tulley, who was a close friend of Mr Knox and an executor of his estate, said: “It has earned just £3,000 in that time and the council have still not given any money out.

“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 their statutory duty to make sure funds are adequately invested.

“Just look at the Hayward Trust and what it has done for Galashiels. That money should be invested properly. By next month’s meeting we need to know when the money will be invested.”

Galashiels Councillor Bill White, an independent financial advisor, offered to look into investing the money without a fee, and believed he could generate £16,000 a year.

Councillor White added: “I really do want something done in the next three months. I am really disappointed with the amount of money earned.”

An SBC spokesman said: “Following a fruitful meeting earlier this year with representatives of the Gala Local Relief Fund, the new ward members will look at the possible use of the funds.”