Dumbarton residents are only too aware of how the Covid pandemic has affected all our lives and how it stretched our public services to the limit, as key workers battled with the challenges of delivering vital services to our community.

West Dunbartonshire Council staff worked heroically on our behalf, from care workers to teachers, cleaners to caretakers and call-centre staff to refuse collectors. Over the past year, I praised our key workers for their efforts and thanked them at every opportunity.

In fact, I led the debate at the June council meeting, to increase the pay rise for council workers by 4 per cent in line with the pay rise for NHS staff. Unfortunately the ruling SNP group refused to support my motion and instead decided to send a watered down version of our demands.

I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words and as if to underscore this, your SNP council leader waited two months before sending his letter – far too late. Clearly hard-pressed council staff are not his priority.

In addition to calling for a pay rise for hard working staff, I’ve also called for the council to begin its recovery phase and get back on track delivering the services you require. I led calls for an action plan to reduce the backlog in our repairs service, to clean up our housing estates and to offer much needed office services to vulnerable residents who need them. We now can have a planned and safe return guided by risk assessments and safe systems of work. Of course remote working could continue for some staff but vital services require to be delivered from our offices.

SNP councillors ignored Labour calls to begin the recovery, even as residents’ calls to the council went unanswered. On August 9, Scotland moved to “beyond level zero”, and on August16 our schools returned, but the SNP council still delayed the return to workspaces until September 17. It seems our SNP council is deaf to residents who are eager for our recovery to begin.

You can imagine my astonishment last week when the council announced that they wouldn’t be able to meet their delayed reopening. Instead they will consider it again in October, by which time Church Street will have been closed to the public for 19 months, with no guarantee it will open this side of Christmas.

In other news, while decent pay rises for council staff are ignored, residents’ phone calls go unanswered and council offices remain closed, the First Minister announced ambitions for a second independence referendum. For the next few weeks at least, this might distract from the explosion of Covid cases, the lengthening hospital waiting lists and the growing mental health crisis in Scotland.