AS I write my first column of this year, I share the concerns of every person in West Dunbartonshire about when this nightmare of Covid and its restrictions will finally be over.

Like you I hoped that 2021 would bring a new beginning – but even though we are still in lockdown, those Covid numbers remain stubbornly high, and have increased in recent weeks.

There is good news though – the UK nations have some of the best vaccination programmes in the world, and the roll-out seems to be going well.

Care home residents and staff were vaccinated along with other vulnerable groups.

Our community centres have supported the mass vaccination of our elderly, and testing of care at home staff protects adults in the community.

The continuation of the vaccination programme means there is light at the end of the tunnel, and hopefully we’ll soon be able to embrace our loved ones.

It’s the time of year when West Dunbartonshire Council grapples with the thorny task of balancing its budget.

The budget gap stands at £2.9m and is based on assumed management adjustments.

There is good news for hard pressed residents this year as council tax is to be frozen to help household budgets during the pandemic.

The West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust budget was confirmed last week.

The Trust acted to protect services and jobs but was still facing a £225,000 restructure, and needed more council funding to close the gap.

At the corporate service committee we rejected the restructure of Sports Development and Active Schools and gave the Trust enough money to balance the books and protect services like the early years nursery programme and swimming pool provision as well as leisure jobs.

The real worry is that these one-off savings mean services will be at risk the following year unless the Trust generates sufficient income and rebuilds its customer base.

Without sustainable income, services will be lost.

There have been lots of positives over recent weeks. Like many others I was delighted when the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health board announced that the GP out of hours service would be brought back in January and fully reinstated by March.

Also, families were finally able to move into their brand new homes at Dumbarton Harbour, after months of worry and delay and the exciting purpose-built homes in Alexandria are nearly ready to welcome its first tenants.

Ideas always take time to come to fruition, but I was especially delighted to see new council homes finally built on the old Haldane School land – an idea which began with the new Balloch campus during the last administration.

So, even in these difficult times there are many positives for us to hold on to.