LESS than £16,000 was paid out by trust funds and bequests under the control of East Lothian Council last year – despite millions of pounds being held in them.

The council oversees 45 trusts, some of which date back to the 18th century, with the value of funds available estimated at £2.7million and property assets of £738,000.

Yet only 15 have paid out any money over the last five years, with the amount falling annually from £23,814 in 2014 to £15,351 last year. So far this calendar year, £17,510 has been paid out.

Among those which have not made any payments are the two biggest: the Richardson Bequest, which has £1.339million; and the John Hume Fund which has £271,690 available funds and property assets of £331,760.

The Richardson Bequest is, according to the council, “for housing for deserving residents of Haddington”.

It was set up after John Richardson, a clerk of Haddington Town Council, left part of his estate to the town following his death in 1940.

The John Hume Fund was established in 1774 when Mr Hume, of Haddington, bequeathed a tenement building on High Street to the town’s magistrates for the purpose of making one of its inhabitants an apprentice, with surplus rents to be given to “pious and charitable purposes”.

The council’s modern-day description of the fund is for “maintenance of a specific property in Haddington and the support of a building maintenance apprentice”.

One fund which has made payments and is promoted is the Brown Bequest, which has £184,000 available to support dental treatment for the poor in Musselburgh. Posters about it can be found in dental practices in the town and it has paid out, on average, £100 a year since 2014.

However, another of the biggest funds, the James McKelvie Bequest, which was given to help the homeless passing through Musselburgh, paid out nothing from 2014 until this year, when an award of £1,000 was made to Fisherrow Foodbank.

Councillor Stuart Currie, Musselburgh ward member, said: “I have been arguing for some time that the trust funds based in Musselburgh should be used for the wider community wellbeing in the town. My own view is that we need to ensure that the funds held in trust for each town are used to the best effect to alleviate poverty.”

Some trusts have strict criteria. The Mrs Bridge’s Bequest, which has £5,700, is for women over the age of 55, with “preference being given to those who have seen better days and resided in the parish for 10 years”. It has paid out £400 this year.

Councillor Jane Henderson, leader of the council’s Conservative opposition, said: “East Lothian Council is conducting a review of the trusts/ bequests for which it has responsibility or manages. I am confident that any monies which may be available for charitable purposes should and will be distributed appropriately.

“As chair/convenor of the audit and governance committee, I am committed to ensuring that the intent and wishes of the benefactors, within the terms of the original deeds, are respected. The review has been awarded the importance and priority it deserves.”

A council spokesperson said work was under way to improve the way the funds were managed.

She said: “The council has begun a project aimed at reducing or removing the number of charitable trusts where it is the sole trustee.

“This is in the early stages of development but is being treated as a priority to allow for the effective and focused management of the funds.”