A NEW year always brings with it renewed optimism and hope for all.

So, now that 2019 is underway, I’m looking forward to all that it will bring for residents across East Renfrewshire.

It will undoubtedly be another busy and exciting year for us, as we progress a number of significant projects across the area.

Three council housebuilding projects are currently under way in Barrhead – the first new-builds in a generation – and these will all be completed this year.
A total of 45 new homes are being built, which will help to improve the lives of families in need of these properties.

Our work to prepare for the introduction of increased free childcare for all by August 2020 will also gather pace this year.

With more than 100 families already benefitting from increased hours as a result of our phased approach to introducing these changes, the next stage of our roll-out should offer parents even more flexibility.

It is planned to introduce partnerships with childminders from August 2019, offering parents the opportunity to access their free entitlement through a more blended approach, which will include partnerships with private nurseries.

The aim is to offer as much choice as possible, as we try to provide childcare options which meet the needs of modern, busy families.

Just before Christmas, I was delighted to have the chance to attend the annual East Renfrewshire Employability Awards.

This ceremony recognised many of the success stories of our residents who have furthered their careers and training prospects in the last 12 months.

Hearing about some of the fantastic achievements was extremely humbling and I congratulate each and every person who was honoured at this fantastic event.

The Special Recognition Award went to Jonathan Davis, from Barrhead, for his commitment to getting into employment.

It was a pleasure to meet Jonathan, who is now working as a taxi driver, and all the other nominees.

Finally, congratulations also go to Barrhead residents Ashley and Paul McIlvenny, who have been named as East Renfrewshire Citizens of the Year for 2018.

The couple set up the Include Me 2 Club in 2010 to provide social opportunities and activities for adults across East Renfrewshire with additional support needs.

Since then, the volunteer-led charity has gone from strength to strength, with hundreds of residents now benefitting from the club.

The success and growth of the club has been down to Ashley and Paul’s dedicated volunteering.

Our communities depend on residents who are willing and able to go above and beyond to help others.

Well done to Ashley and Paul for this fantastic achievement.