THE weather has been absolutely horrible over the past few days.

No sooner are the gritters parked up but along comes the freezing weather again and back out they go.

Although the forecast tells us it’s due to get warmer, it has felt like the cold cuts through every bone in your body. 

Just as the weather doesn’t seem to be changing, neither does the topic of discussion today – the council budget. 

There’s been a reasonable response to the council’s public budget consultation so far, but in truth, like always, it is only a very small minority of Inverclyde that let us know their views through the formal process.

That’s why I always find it more useful when it comes to making budget choices to have as many real conversations with people that use and benefit from council services.

The process to date has shown that there are certainly many passionate people living here, there’s very much a thriving community of volunteers who contribute, just as much as our council services do in regards to making Inverclyde a better place. 

Ultimately though, as elected representatives, we need to make decisions.

It’s absolutely vital that we make sure we listen to the views of those that contact us, those that have responded to consultations, but in my opinion most importantly never forgetting why we stood for election for in the first place – and the views of those that elected us to be their voice. 

It must be hard for people at times to keep track of what’s happening with the budget.

On one hand there are those that make it out to be a doomsday scenario. In fact I think I’ve heard it referred to as ‘draconian’ by the administration every single year that I’ve been on the council.

On the other hand people get frustrated when they think the council wastes money, when we send funds back to the Scottish Government we didn’t spend, and then there’s the fact that we underspend the budget every single year. 
I take a different view.

I accept there are some challenges with the budget, but this is a budget of opportunity. 

The SNP group on the council wish to come to a consensus with all councillors so that we can set a budget that we all agree on.

To that end we will be sharing our budget proposals with our fellow councillors next week. We aim to be as transparent as possible so it’s important you also understand our position, which has been set out on page four of today’s Greenock Telegraph. 

In order for SNP councillors to vote in favour of a final budget it must meet two tests. Firstly we can’t support a budget that includes cuts we oppose; and secondly we wish the budget to include new policy initiatives we want to see implemented. 

The SNP’s top priority is to seek the agreement to the extension of free school meals for primary school children, pictured.

We could of course simply propose our own balanced budget which we have prepared and hope to win the support of enough councillors so that it will pass.

We don’t want to do that though, we want to reach consensus with the entire council.

I look forward to hearing the position of the various groups on the council.

The key tests for us to support an Inverclyde unity budget are what we believe are in the best interests of Inverclyde. I hope everyone agree to that.