TOMORROW is budget day in Inverclyde.

It may not have the grandeur of budget day at Westminster – there is no red box - or even Holyrood but it is nevertheless an important day for local residents and staff of the council.

Budget day is the culmination of many months of work on the part of councillors, officers and trades union colleagues.

The Members’ Budget Working Group alone met on sixteen separate occasions between June last year and February this year. There were many other meetings involving officers, trades union representatives and political groups.

We also had a four week public consultation that received nearly 1,400 responses, a record for the council. Thank-you to everyone who took the time to respond.

Your views have helped inform the very difficult decisions that elected members will take tomorrow.

I have to say it was disappointing that the SNP group showed little respect for the public’s views. They criticised a number of savings proposals before they even went out for consultation, despite agreeing to them going out for consultation in the first place.

They also announced they would not support a number of savings before the end of the consultation period and before they had received a briefing from Officers on the consultation responses.

No wonder people are cynical about politicians.

Tomorrow is the final stage in the budget process. We have already made a number of decisions that reduced the funding gap we faced a few months ago, including putting up the council tax by three per cent.

Despite these decisions we still have to make further savings of the order of £3m to balance the books in the next financial year.

Coincidently £3m is close to the amount of money we have set aside to fund pay awards for council staff. So if the Scottish Government had agreed to fund pay awards for our staff in the same way they are funding pay awards for their own civil servants we would not have to make any further savings.

As it is tomorrow’s budget will include more cuts to services and jobs and increases in charges. I deeply regret that we have to make these difficult decisions.

Inverclyde will be one of the last councils in Scotland to agree our budget. As you may recall, we delayed our public consultation until we knew our settlement from the Scottish Government.

I have been watching with interest as other councils set their budgets and have noticed how they have all sought to accentuate the positive proposals in their budgets.

There will be a number of positive proposals in our budget but for me they will be overshadowed by the cuts we have to make. The time for political spinning is over. We need to be honest with ourselves, honest with our staff and honest with you the electorate.

The system for funding local services in Scotland is broken. Indeed it could be argued that our whole system of local democracy is broken.

When I listen to Scottish Government ministers talking about a ‘power grab’ by Westminster over the powers to be returned from the EU after Brexit a wry smile crosses my face. They are the masters of the ‘power grab’.

Until the Scottish Parliament treats Scottish local government as an equal partner and until they accept that the democratic mandate of councillors is of equal value to that of MSPs the Scottish Government will continue with its power grab, which is systematically turning local government into local administration.