This week's Councillor Column is written by Gary Mulvaney, Conservative councillor for Helensburgh Central and depute leader of Argyll and Bute Council.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Council Budget: Some things never change, with the SNP government deciding to deliver another real terms cut to local government funding in Scotland.

Having got more money – an extra £2 billion – from the UK exchequer in the chancellor’s November budget, the SNP has decided that the services local authorities provide, from education and social care, to roads and refuse, are not a priority as far as they are concerned. The end result being less money for local government.

As finance lead, I and my administration colleagues will try our best to protect local services people value in this year’s budget in February.

But looking ahead, it may be in 2019/20 and 2020/21 that Argyll and Bute’s finances face an unavoidable cliff-edge scenario.

The Nat Tax: The SNP has chosen to raise taxes on 1.16 million Scots – 45 per cent of all taxpayers. Anyone earning more than £26,000 will pay more tax than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

This is the highest income tax hike for Scots in more than 40 years. So much for Nicola Sturgeon's election promise to protect those on low and middle incomes. A promise clearly now broken.

Waterfront: The design team continues to make progress on the new pool, and at the end of January they will start to engage with a range of interested parties to hear their ideas and suggestions to make the facilities even better.

Amongst a range of statutory and non-statutory consultees, community councils, swimming clubs, Sports clubs, gym users and community groups will be asked for their views in focus group sessions.

Formal pre-application consultation will start in March with the aim of submitting a formal planning application in the summer.

Helensburgh Community Woodland: The area committee endorsed this group’s aim to regenerate the de-forested land at Cumberland Avenue with plans for tree re-planting, public access and paths.

Years ago I was an enthusiastic supporter of building new houses on these ex-MoD sites and I am delighted with what was built at Cumberland Avenue and Kidston Garden. But now is the time for landowners and the community to sit down together and agree a long term plan for this site.

“Osborne Community Wood” would be a fine legacy for what the community has achieved in this part of town.