I want to start with a quick thank you to all those who participated in the Rainbow Flag Raising event last week in Clydebank to mark the beginning of LGBT History Month. To quote Provost Hendrie, “It’s a reminder of how far we have come and how far we still have to go”. Everyone deserves to be treated with equality, dignity and respect and West Dunbartonshire Council will continue to work with others to help our communities be welcoming for all.

While the BREXIT shambles plays out at Westminster and we see continued austerity, both as a result of us remaining in the United Kingdom, the SNP have reached a deal with the Green Party to deliver a fair and ambitious budget for Scotland. It invests money in key national priorities such as our NHS, Police and Fire Services, as well as targeting specific funding to raise attainment in our schools and tackle the complex issues of poverty and Social Care.

Over the past few months I have, individually and jointly with colleagues, had constructive discussions with the Scottish Government about the importance of core Council budgets. The Scottish Government have taken on board my concerns and increased our core allocation by more than £1.5m, as well as giving us more flexibility to raise money and target ring-fenced funds to those areas most in need.

West Dunbartonshire Council now finds itself in a much improved position compared to December. While we still have challenges going forward and need to keep working to remove costs from the organisation, we have made sensible decisions on the Council’s finances since taking office in 2017 and we continue to plan ahead; we look forward to presenting our budget at the end of March.

Banner waving and raised voices in Council meetings do nothing. Thanks to constructive and respectful dialogue between ourselves and the Scottish Government, we have a fair deal that will help us deliver the services our residents need. As this Council’s Leader I will continue to rise above the pantomime politics of the Labour Party and get on with the job of representing the people of West Dunbartonshire.