It’s been a tough run for councillors in West Dunbartonshire as the pre-budget period has gathered pace.

Discussions have been taking place behind the scenes in a bid to retain as many of the services vital to communities as possible, within the scope of what amounts to ever-decreasing real-terms budget provision from the Scottish Government.

These decisions are never easy and rest assured we do not take them lightly. Councillors on the West Dunbartonshire authority live in the area and are part of the communities affected by these decisions.

It is with a heavy heart that we take decisions which could result in cuts to services and staffing - these are also our friends, our neighbours, our families and our services.

We are now facing having to take decisions which nobody who lives in a community wants to take - but with office, comes responsibility and it is our responsibility to make these tough choices to help close a £15million budget gap.

Tough decisions have already had to be made to bring down the projected budget shortfall from the £21m we faced in December.

We understand that this will inevitably have a knock-on effect for services in the area but we have tried to cushion the blow as much as possible within the limited funding framework available.

Choices we have faced include cutting bin collection provision to once every three weeks and reducing the funding we give to voluntary groups.

You may have already heard, or read in the media, that reductions to the school day have also been considered, which would see our children attend school from Monday to Thursday from 8.30am until 3.45pm and squeezing the same amount of teaching time across four days instead of five.

However, we are ruling out this option early, to reduce the considerable concerns faced by parents and carers.

We understand, the complexities this would cause for families in our communities.

On a lighter note, I would like to extend my best wishes to the players from two opposing Clydebank football teams who are set to put their differences aside to help raise vital funding for men’s mental health charity Brothers In Arms.

It may sound like a cliché, but it’s good to talk and the actions of players from Kilbowie Amateur Football Club and Dalmuir United have helped bring much-needed focus to the issue of men’s mental health.

I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to a well-kent face, Provost Douglas McAllister who has been selected as Labour's candidate for the West Dunbartonshire constituency at the upcoming Westminster elections.

Douglas, who grew up in Drumry, has earned his stripes serving the community of the Kilpatrick ward for almost two decades, and has also brought his experience to his role as West Dunbartonshire Council’s Provost.