February has been a month focused on money and budgets with all councils finding out what this year’s funding from the Scottish Government will mean for residents and how they will be able to fund local services.

So, it’s also good news to know that there are many council-led programmes – such as the Tackling Poverty Fund - that are helping to support local people who need it.

You may have heard a lot in the news over the past few weeks about the funding that councils receive from the Scottish Government and the debate about whether it is enough. I should point out firstly that, overall, its single biggest cut imposed on local government yet, and secondly, it’s a 3.4% grant cut for Renfrewshire.

Council leaders were asked to write to Finance Secretary John Swinney by Tuesday 9 February indicating their acceptance of the deal. I have done so but, as I said in my letter, only because we were in the impossible position whereby not doing so would deny access to millions of pounds of funding.

There should be no illusions about the difficulties councils face. An independent report just published pointed out that we face a 17% gap over the next five years between the cost of meeting demand for council services and the funding available.

We are clear on what our priorities for Renfrewshire are and will continue striving to deliver on them. The Invest in Renfrewshire programme has halved youth unemployment in the past three years; we’re delivering hundreds of new, affordable homes across Renfrewshire; Families First is ensuring our youngest children get the best start possible; and our Tackling Poverty Fund is supporting a range of initiatives specifically-designed to lift families out of hardship and build resilience for the future

But without the necessary long-term funding from the Scottish Government for initiatives such as these, and to maintain the vital frontline services people rely on, it becomes increasingly difficult.

It’s great to see the pioneering Families First programme taking the next step forward in ensuring Renfrewshire’s children get the best start in life. The existing core teams in Linwood and Ferguslie - which were put on the national spotlight almost two weeks ago in the Sunday Mail - will be joined by three new teams in Johnstone, Gallowhill and Foxbar following a £1m investment from the council’s Tackling Poverty Fund. Currently being set up, these new core teams will support more families through proven neighbourhood-based programmes that we know work and have made an overwhelmingly positive impact on the lives of local families.

Local credit unions are also being given a boost with an £175,898 investment to fight high-cost lenders and tackle poverty. This two pronged approach will see the Tackling Poverty money being allocated across Renfrewshire’s four credit unions - Renfrewshire Wide, Gleniffer, White Cart and Johnstone – helping them to modernise services and increase the financial products they offer.

Many people are finding it hard dealing with the spirally cost of living, coupled with lower wages and welfare reform, and we want to make sure people have the right financial support that is affordable and fair. The money will help to make Renfrewshire’s credit union networks the strongest in the country and ensure local people have access to dependable banking services and affordable credit.

The Living Wage is something I truly believe in, so it’s great that many local employers attended a seminar - run by Renfrewshire Council - on how being a Living Wage employer can support business success. It is clear that the Living Wage is good for people and communities, so I’m passionate that employers are clear that it will benefit both employees and their business.

I have a clear vision for Renfrewshire, where calibre businesses can thrive, we create quality jobs and sustain economic growth – and paying the Living Wage is part of that. The council will consider (on 25 February) submitting an application to become an accredited Living Wage employer.

The facts are there – an independent study has found that more than 80% of employers believe that paying employees the Living Wage enhanced the quality of work produced, while absenteeism had fallen by approximately 25%. And 70% of employers also felt that paying the Living Wage had increased customers’ awareness of their commitment to being an ethical employer. Yet there are approximately 16,000 jobs in Renfrewshire that pay below the Living Wage and I would encourage businesses to find out more by calling 0141 618 6872 or emailing invest@renfrewshire.gov.uk.

Leader’s Latest at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/councilleader or #Leaderlatest on Twitter.