COUNCILLOR Aileen Morton discusses the recent budget announcement and offers a Christmas message to the community.


AS the song says, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

At the start of the month I was part of the volunteer team putting on the Helensburgh Winter Festival – with many, many thanks to all of the local businesses and groups who helped make it an enormous success.

In the past week festivities have continued to ramp up, from the Christmas Tree Festival at the United Reformed Church to primary school Nativity plays, and every day more houses around the town have put their Christmas lights up – taking the edge off the dark nights.

Seeing all of this happen, driven by the aspirations of local residents, is a chance to remember just how many people in Helensburgh have a desire to really make a difference, and a great chance to celebrate community spirit.

Helensburgh is full of community spirit – there are so many people locally who give freely of their time and resources to make good things happen all year round.

As we approach Christmas I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of you who work so hard in and for our community – those are truly the gifts that keep on giving.

May I also wish all of you a lovely Christmas. However, for anyone who is struggling as we head towards what can be a time of pressure as well of celebration, I would say this: please do ask for help.

From national organisations such as the Samaritans, to local supports like as the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank, local churches and other community support groups, there is help out there, whether you are struggling with your mental wellbeing, can’t afford to buy a gift for your child or just feeling lonely at this time of year.

The community spirit that is so visible is also there less visibly to provide support for those in need.

FOR Argyll and Bute Council, this time of year is inevitably dominated by one issue – budget preparations.

At the time of writing this column, the Scottish Government had just published its draft budget. As 80 per cent of councils’ funding comes directly from the Scottish Government, the decisions made by the government on how to finance Scotland’s local authorities have a huge impact on local services.

The past few years have seen continual funding cuts and challenges to the delivery of essential services. This year is no different – the indications are that we will, once again, have to take very difficult decisions, bearing in mind the wishes of our communities and the impact on local services and jobs.