Over the last week I have been reflecting on my first year as a West Dunbartonshire councillor. It has certainly been a rollercoaster.

The learning curve is steep, but I have fortunately had seasoned hands to learn from. There is an optimism, a naivety even, from new councillors who want to do politics better. Extremely partisan leadership within the Labour group, who hate all things SNP, and other self-interested individuals combined with skewed, sensationalist media reporting have quickly disabused us of that notion.

It’s a real shame too as I have friends and colleagues in other councils who aren’t opposed just for the sake of it. In West Dunbartonshire I’ve seen half-truths, misrepresentations, and many flat out lies and spend quite a bit of time responding to it.

My response has been to respond with facts. Cold and hard facts. Of course, partisans will happily ignore those because the lie sounds more exciting and feeds a sense of righteous injustice. A constituent recently suggested that everyone should be working together to stop the root cause of the cuts, namely Tory austerity. I wholeheartedly agree and I’ve heard it from many others too.

Getting the budget right is a huge challenge. The councils costs and wages are rising, but our budgets are shrinking every year. While I’m grateful that the Scottish Government has mitigated some of those cuts, I will continue fighting for more for West Dunbartonshire, and make choices that make us more self-reliant and generate our own income.

I was very pleased with the budget process itself and that we were able to deliver a responsible balanced budget that did not use one-off money to delay and cause deep cuts that put services and jobs a greater risk in future years. None of the savings we’ve had to make are easy, and they only get tougher as the budget shrinks further each year. Every service delivered by the council is valued by someone. Having had one of the largest consultation responses in the council’s history, we are able to say that every option taken to make the required savings was backed by the majority of those who took the time to give us their views. The savings this year are very visible to all. Politically that is tough to do, particularly given the behaviour of certain opponents, however being open and transparent about the finances rather than making invisible cuts to the most vulnerable is what we promised when campaigning to be elected.

We will continue to consult and hope that now we’ve demonstrated that we will listen to what is said, even more people will take part in future years consultations.