WELCOME to my first column of 2017, a year that promises in political terms to be just as ‘interesting’, or traumatic depending on how you look at things, as 2016.
Later this month Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Who would have believed that a year ago?
Some time before the end of March, Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 to initiate formal negotiations over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. No one really has a clue what it will lead to.
Voters in France, Germany and the Netherlands will be heading to the polls in elections that could see further movement to the right in European politics and more uncertainty over the future of the European Union. Who knows, we may even have a snap general election in the UK.
In Spain, separatists in Catalonia are threatening to declare independence if they win a majority in a referendum, even though the central government in Madrid is unlikely to consent to that referendum.
In Scotland, the First Minister continues to threaten a second independence referendum if the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU are not to her liking.
And of course in Inverclyde we have our own council elections in May.
I’m not sure what worries me most: the thought of Donald Trump in the White House in Washington DC or the thought of Chris McEleny in the council leader’s office in Greenock.
With only four months of my own term as council leader left I need to put those worries behind me and focus on the job at hand.
There is a budget to agree in February against the backdrop of an extremely poor funding settlement from the Scottish Government. I want to ensure that this budget supports our political priorities while also buying the next administration some time to get to grips with the difficult decisions that will be required to balance the books in the years ahead.
The council’s reputation for sound financial management means a great deal to me.
We have a best value audit underway by Audit Scotland on behalf of the Accounts Commission. This will hopefully provide independent confirmation of the transformation that has taken place within the council since the last such audit in 2005.
There are important decisions to be taken following consultations on our school transport and admissions policies.
I want to ensure as many of our major capital projects as possible are committed prior to May to guard against a future administration stopping any of them. I am still scarred by the decision taken by the incoming Lib Dem administration in 2003 to cancel the contract for the new council care home for the elderly.
On top of all of that is the small matter of an election to fight.
The next few months do indeed promise to be interesting…