This year has been a difficult one on a personal level with the loss of my father after a long illness. On a professional level however it has been one of significant milestones and achievements.

In May I was elected for the sixth time, 25 years after my first election in 1992. I have now served for more than 22 years, having taken a voluntary break between 1996 and 1999. I have never failed to be elected at an election I stood in.

Much to most people’s surprise, including mine, my party ended up being the largest group on the council in May and I was appointed council leader for a record fourth time. 

I have served as council leader for 10 years and have led both minority and coalition administrations in that time. I may be tempting fate, but to date I haven’t lost a political vote.

In June I helped secure the election of a female Labour President for COSLA, the national local government body: only the third female President in the organisation’s forty-two year history. 

At the same meeting I was appointed as COSLA’s Spokesperson for Children and Young People, giving me a key national role in negotiating with the Scottish Government on a range of issues affecting children and young people.

I have had more meetings with government ministers and visits to parliament in the last four months than I did during the previous 10 years. It is a demanding role but also one that is very interesting and worthwhile. 

The downside is that next May I will probably top the Telegraph’s annual councillors’ expenses’ chart. A peak rail ticket to Edinburgh is not cheap these days.

Looking over the past 25 years and in particular over the past 10 years as council leader, I can point to lots of achievements, many of which are tangible in terms of major investments in community assets or new services. Too many to list in a column restricted to around 600 words.

Two less tangible, but none the less significant, achievements this year stand out.

In June the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland published their latest Best Value Assurance Report twelve years after the previous one, which was highly critical of the way in which the council was run. 

This report did not make the headlines the 2005 one did, which saw Inverclyde branded as the worst council in Scotland, but it did show a dramatic improvement in how services are run locally.

The report is one of the best of any council in Scotland. It was particularly heartening to see Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission recognise the importance of a constructive working relationship between officers and councillors — something which was heavily criticised in the report in 2005.

A very strong focus on performance management and sound financial management was also highlighted by the auditors. 

These are areas which should continue to be priorities for the council moving forward and will help to make sure that we are in a strong position to respond to future financial demands.

Last week the Care Inspectorate published a report on services for children and young people in Inverclyde following an inspection of these services it carried out with other public agencies, including Education Scotland. 

The inspectors found that Inverclyde is leading the way in involving children, young people and their families in designing good quality services.

They also found that families across the area are benefitting from joined up services, which have a positive impact on improving the lives of children and young people.

This report reflects very well on the council and our partners in the public and voluntary sectors. It is a report I am very proud of as leader of the council and chair of the Inverclyde Alliance, our community planning partnership.

I am never content to rest on our laurels however. There are always areas where we can improve and I will continue to drive further improvement for as long as I am in this job.