IN the past few days the City Government passed what I hope and believe will be the first of many budgets for the people of Glasgow.

The first by a new administration with a fresh approach and fresh ideas for generations, it will see an acceleration in the changes our citizens voted for last May. The first ever SNP budget for Glasgow will lay the foundations to allow our city to move forward, to give Glasgow, in the face of ongoing Westminster austerity, the capacity and resilience to flourish.

Glasgow didn’t just vote for a change in personnel. You told us you wanted things done differently.

So our budget is one which protects the cherished services our citizens rely upon, invests in the fabric of our city necessary for it to fulfil its role as the engine room of Scotland acknowledges the importance of our workforce.

The people who deliver what we do are the most important asset this council has.

In the weeks ahead the City Government will unveil more details of the proposals from our budget. As Scotland as a whole continues to suffer from UK Government policies, and because we know there are areas where we can improve upon, we will also make it clear where we intend to make savings.

But there are several areas I would like to expand upon now.

Many readers will have been aware of claims the City Government was planning on cutting frontline services within cleansing. We said repeatedly throughout this process that we were actively considering investment in our service and staff. And that we did.

No-one was as acutely aware that some of our services have suffered chronic under-investment over many years as members of my administration. Rather than cutting staff numbers we agreed to extend the contracts of the temporary street teams.

But temporary contracts are not good for staff nor the stability of services. That is why we are creating 150 permanent new jobs in Land and Environmental Services, a clear frontline investment in cleaner streets and vibrant neighbourhoods. The previous Labour administration, which created the uncertainty these men faced, simply wanted to continue with that with another temporary contract. Our streets, our citizens and our staff deserve better.

Crucially we are enhancing this by making an investment in roads, footpaths and road safety of over £25m, with new lighting columns, smart bins, improvements in school playgrounds and city parks part of our offer.

By extending free school meals to all our 6000 primary four children we are making a clear investment in this city’s future whilst tackling the social inequality the SNP City Government is determined to finally confront and consign to history. We have protected our education budget to improve the life chances of our children. Extending free school meals will make a difference to learning while increasing our clothing grant will help a great many families cope.

Hunger meanwhile is still a daily issue for too many children in this city and we have also committed to invest £2m so all children can receive a hot meal during school holidays. In the face of ongoing austerity this is, regrettably, a much needed measure.

Pilots have been carried out and we believe that this assistance is best delivered at a community level, be that through housing associations, churches, community groups or whatever the evidence tells us is best. We need to assist without stigmatising.

We have voted to increase the hourly rate of on-street parking charges by £1. In a city with the lowest car ownership rates in the UK it is astounding how congested our streets remain. This is a measure which can’t be seen in isolation. In the coming year Glasgow will pilot Scotland’s first low emissions zone, a radical measure to alleviate the pollution choking our streets and people. The Connectivity Commission, made up of leading transport and business thinkers and practitioners, will recommend improvements to the look and feel of the city for transport users and businesses.

Parking charges in Glasgow, and in particular Glasgow city centre, have been considerably lower than many other towns and cities, during a period when most other forms of travel have become much more expensive.

Encouraging a shift from private car use to public transport and active travel is a well-established aim of the city’s transport strategy.

Some context if I may. Whilst there is much to divide the political groups within the City Council, there is common ground on many areas. Even Labour, who ignored the problem for years and who were sceptical about our plans for a Low Emission Zone as recently as last year’s elections, have finally, belatedly realised that something has to be done about congestion and air pollution in Glasgow. This is a major public health issue. Politically, the landscape is shifting on this issue.

Elsewhere, as Evening Times readers may already know, the finances have been set aside to bring back into the council fold those low-paid women who provide the care this city relies upon. Should an ongoing review recommend Cordia come back inhouse it will give them the same terms and conditions as their colleagues within the authority. Along with our equal pay negotiations, it is another step to addressing the inequalities of the past.

This is the start of a new way of working in Glasgow, it’s a budget about investing to improve.

We need as a city to raise our expectations of our council and our council needs to respond. We have responded with a budget for the people of Glasgow.