The latest budget update will go before a special full council meeting tomorrow. It provides the council’s projected financial position over the next two years and options for how we fulfil our legal obligation to deliver a balanced budget in the 2024/25 financial year.

Pre-Christmas, we had been projecting a funding shortfall of around £800,000 after a seven per cent increase in council tax.

However, the Scottish Government’s draft funding settlement for 2024/25 cut Inverclyde’s grant by £2m in cash terms, which is £1.5m higher than the cut we had expected. This means we are now looking at having to make savings of £2.5m over the next two years despite the planned use of a further £6m of reserves and an assumed council tax rise of seven per cent in 2025/26.

The Scottish Government wants councils to freeze council tax in 2024/25. This is entirely politically motivated and does nothing to help the nearly 11,000 households in Inverclyde who are either exempt from it or in receipt of council tax reduction.

If the Scottish Government gave us the £1.8m they are offering if we freeze council tax and allowed us to increase it by a modest amount, we could avoid further cuts to jobs and services.

Proposals in the report to council this week include savings options totalling £2.85m by the end of 2025/26 and a reduction of up to 70 FTE (full-time equivalent) posts.

The report also provides details on a proposed voluntary early retirement (VER) trawl, council tax options, including a potential increase of nine per cent in 2024/25, and potential uses of reserves.

The options in the report will be the subject of consultation over the next two weeks, providing an opportunity for you, the readers, and the wider public to have your say. I strongly encourage you to make your voices heard.

Years of underfunding for local government is why there is now a charge for garden waste recycling and why permits have gone on sale this week at an increased rate of £42 for the 2024 sea

While that still offers value for money, especially when compared with some other areas, councils can no longer provide the same level of services with less money. It is basic economics.

Greenock Police Station

The Police & Fire Scrutiny Panel met last week to agree an initial response to the Police Scotland consultation on the future of Greenock Police Station.

Police Scotland representatives at the meeting faced robust scrutiny from members of the panel.

We will continue to scrutinise the plans of Police Scotland as they are further developed over the coming months. They need to come up with a credible alternative plan to the refurbishment of the existing police station which retains an appropriate level of custody provision in Inverclyde.

Grow your own way

On a lighter note, the council’s recent success in attracting external funding for one-off projects is beginning to bear fruit in more than just the traditional sense.

The Invergrow project is now up and running, providing practical and financial support to communities across Inverclyde to create or develop spaces for growing food.

This initiative is funded by the council through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is part of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

The project is being delivered in partnership with the Inverclyde Community Food Network, which incorporates many of the wonderful organisations already proudly promoting food growing initiatives.

In a world of increasing costs and a climate emergency, what better way to tackle both of those issues than with affordable and sustainable produce right on our doorstep?

If you are a new group looking to develop a new space or an existing organisation looking to grow your current plot, have a look on the council website and social media channels for more information about Invergrow and how to get involved.