February is traditionally a time when local councils set our budgets for the coming year.

We know to our cost how much both the Tories and SNP have punished local authorities in the last ten years with huge budget cuts that have seen many of our vital services either cut or huge increased charges for services to the most vulnerable in society.

At last week’s council meeting, we were pleased to note that this year, we are anticipating being able to set a budget without the massive cuts we have got used to, which of course is welcome by us all.

Thankfully, this year we will not be faced with a pick and mix menu of cuts and charges. However, we must note this is not because of a change of policy by the SNP in Holyrood to fund us fairly.

Local authorities have faced year in year out cuts far in excess to the cuts that the Tories have cut the Scottish Government budget.

We know, for example, the Scottish budget was cut by the Tories up to 2018 by 1.6 per cent, but the SNP then passed a budget cut of 6.9 per cent to WDC.

Even next year the Tories will increase the Scottish budget by £1.2billion and yet we are budgeting for the Scottish Government to cut our money by 0.75 per cent.

So why are we expecting to be able to balance the books this year? There will still be management adjustment/cuts which will remove 22 posts next year as well as an expected 3 per cent increase in council tax and a rise of 4 per cent for other charges.

However, the main reason for our ability to balance the budget is there has been a major change in financial regulations that means the council can now extend our long term loans, sometimes doubling them from payments for 30 years to 60 years for assets.

While I agree, and support this change of financial regulations as it will safeguard services today and in the future years, we need to be clear the government has now agreed we can extend our loans.

They have not increased our budgets. In fact, as I have already said, we expect a further cut from the SNP despite their own budget increasing. We will now be paying loan charges for many years to come, often for future generations to safeguard services today.

Harsh realistic choices following ten years of Tory and SNP austerity and don’t forget the unfunded council tax freeze the SNP imposed because they failed to deliver their 2007 election promise “to scrap the unfair council tax”.