AS this is my first column in 2019, I would like to wish a happy, healthy and prosperous new year to all readers of The Gazette.

Last year provided so many reasons to be positive and it is with this momentum that we look forward to a hugely exciting 2019.

During 2018, our schools raised attainment and gained major accolades, with St Anthony’s Primary, in Johnstone, named UK Literacy School of the Year.

READ MORE: Scottish school named UK Literacy School of the Year

New figures also show great progress in our ambitions for the area as a popular tourist destination, with visitor numbers more than doubling to 5.3 million between 2015 and 2017.

There is a growing pride in our place. We’ve invested £2.5million to enhance street cleaning and the area’s Team Up to Clean Up campaign has seen 3,500 volunteers take part in clean-ups.

This year will see us take the next steps on this journey to create a thriving Renfrewshire where people want to live, visit, work and invest in.

More than £100million is being invested in cultural venues, including the flagship project to turn Paisley Museum into an international-class destination, anticipated to attract 125,000 visitors each year.

And 2019 signals the start of construction of an advanced manufacturing innovation district next to Glasgow Airport, which will bring thousands of highly-skilled jobs.

There are now more ways than ever before for you to make a difference in your area, whether it is joining a Local Partnership or applying for support from the Community Empowerment Fund for groups who want to take over ownership and running of a building or piece or land.

There is also the Green Spaces and Villages Investment Fund to improve underused or neglected green spaces or take forward projects which will strengthen the character, identity and heritage of the community.

Renfrewshire has so much to offer and, by working together, we can look forward to a bright future.

Like all councils, we face the significant challenge of balancing increasing and changing demand on our essential services, with the need to make significant savings. The uncertainty around Brexit has added yet more challenges, but my administration will do everything in its power to protect essential services and provide support to the most vulnerable people.

The council’s events team are working on an action-packed programme of events in 2019 which will reach right across Renfrewshire.

Major events are a hugely important part of our drive to use the area’s unique culture and heritage to attract more visitors.

READ MORE: Paisley Town Hall closes doors for £22million makeover

This approach is delivering results – an independent assessment of last year’s winter events programme found it attracted record numbers, achieved higher visitor spend than ever before and injected £3.5m into the local economy.

Our events programme will build on this and provide support to celebrate all that our towns and villages have to offer.