AS reported in the Tele, only a few days ago, levels of unemployment in Inverclyde rank among some of the highest in the UK. 

According to figures published by the Office of National Statistics, nearly seven per cent of the local working age population are unemployed compared to just 2.5 per cent nationally.

These latest figures are a stark reminder that for all the changes and all the improvements there have been over the years, with welcome, visible, physical signs of regeneration, a lack of work and a lack of opportunity still holds Inverclyde back.

As I have said before, I cannot understand how any government minister or DWP boss could look at the unemployment rate in Inverclyde and decide that closing the Port Glasgow Job Centre is the right thing to do.

The welfare system is in disarray, the roll-out of Universal Credit has wreaked havoc on the squeezed household budgets of benefit claimants and too many people still cannot access the jobs and the training they require. This is no time to cut back and centralise the very services people depend on to navigate the system and find work.

The government should ensure that there is always adequate support for jobseekers and it should ensure that the economy itself can sustain rising levels of employment and better living standards too.

Central government should be proactively working with local government to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy are spread fairly, with more opportunities for people to earn a living and get on in life in places like Inverclyde.

That means new housing, including more affordable homes for rent, regenerating local communities, creating footfall for local shops and boosting the construction industry.

It means reinventing the waterfront, bringing more cruise liners to Inverclyde and making sure that tourism and leisure contributes more and more to the local economy, with coastal walks, water sports and new marinas.

Since 2011, the SNP government in Edinburgh have slashed £1.5 billion from council budgets. The more councils struggle to provide statutory services like schools and social work, the more challenging resourcing economic development work on the ground becomes.

As council leader Stephen McCabe has warned, cuts to local authorities hit employment directly too. Even where councils have put in place a policy of ‘no compulsory redundancies’, there are examples of head counts falling and jobs not being replaced when people move on because of SNP Government cuts.

That affects people’s services and it affects local economies.

If the Scottish Government wants people and businesses to come to invest in Inverclyde then it should lead by example. It’s time to stop the council cuts.