Beginning 16 years ago as a small one-day book festival, the 2016 Lochwinnoch Arts Festival formally begins on March 17 with a wealth of events throughout the month.

However, next week the pre-festival events begin so you can get involved in the fun even earlier. The first event will be a Family Poetry Competition, which takes place on March 5 from 11am to noon at the RSPB Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve. Like a lot of events in the festival this will be free and is sure to be a great time for everyone who takes part.

You can find the full list of events that are taking place throughout the entire month on the Lochwinnoch Arts Festival’s website at:

Last Friday, February 26, I was so pleased to visit St Vincent’s Hospice in Howwood to meet the inspiring staff, volunteers and patients.

St Vincent’s provide a truly invaluable service to our local community, and the staff and volunteers are working so hard to make a difference for the patients in the Hospice. You can feel it in the air that the people are genuinely interested and sincerely care for the patients.

Every year St Vincent’s need to raise over one million pounds to continue offering these great services, and rely on donations to cover a large part of that cost. There are many ways to donate, and you can find them all at:

They also rely on volunteers to keep their services running. From working in their charity shops, through to Maintenance and Housekeeping, there is a place for everyone who would like to help. You can find out how to get involved by visiting:

This week Renfrewshire Council will be setting its budget for the forthcoming financial year. The Labour led council have moaned quite a bit about alleged budget cuts but forget to mention that they underspent last year’s budget by over £1 million. They also conveniently forget to mention that the council tax freeze is fully funded, with a recent report from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre highlighting that councils received more from the Scottish Government to freeze the council tax than they would have if they increased it by inflation.

On the subject of budgets though it is worth remembering that Labour signed Renfrewshire up for one of the worst Private Finance Initiative deals in Scotland. For new schools estimated to be worth around £100 million, Renfrewshire residents will pay back around £547 million over a 32 year period. This includes £16.7 million coming out of next year’s budget to pay for these loan shark style charges.