Over recent weeks, there has been significant discussion about some very serious challenges facing Glasgow in terms of homelessness and, in particular, homelessness amongst people leaving the asylum system.
There has been a great deal of media coverage of this issue and what it might mean for the council and I want to make sure you are all aware of what is happening.
Glasgow has been what is commonly known as a dispersal city for more than two decades.
What this means, in practical terms, is that we have an agreement with the Home Office to host some of the thousands of people who arrive in the UK to seek asylum, while their claims are being processed.
Although other communities have welcomed asylum seekers and refugees in much smaller numbers, Glasgow remains the only place in Scotland to have such an arrangement in place.
It is generally accepted that dispersal has been good for the city - certainly, successive council leaders have spoken about how they believe the process has enriched our communities.
You may also be aware there is, across the UK, currently a backlog of asylum cases awaiting decision - and it is the UK Government's approach to tackling that backlog that is causing concern for many of your colleagues.
The Home Office is introducing a new streamlined process which will lead to thousands of asylum seekers currently living in Glasgow having their cases determined within just a few months.
While this might, on the face of it, sound like an improvement - we are concerned the intensity of cases will overwhelm the support systems that are in place.
We expect something like an additional 2,500 decisions will be taken over the coming weeks.
After each decision, people will have to leave the accommodation provided by the Home Office very quickly. This will allow the Government to move in new cases from elsewhere in the country.
We anticipate 70-80% of those given leave to remain in the UK will become homeless and seek help from the council. Those who are refused asylum will not be eligible for support and face destitution - and by law we are not allowed to help them except in very limited circumstances.
The potential impact on our services - and most immediately our support for people experiencing homelessness - is stark.
We estimate the impact on the Health and Social Care Partnership over a full year could be more than £50 million. The Home Office does not plan to provide any funding to help meet these costs.
However, even if we had the financial resources to deal with this, we simply do not have enough homes and we are urgently looking at how best to keep people safe.
Whatever your role within the council family, you will have encountered at least some of the diverse impacts that poverty and inequality have in our communities.
One of four grand challenges identified in our strategic plan is to reduce poverty and inequality.
We are committed to looking after our most vulnerable citizens, to help create a fair city where the needs of our communities drive our decisions - and services are directly targeted to help them thrive.
In fact, trying to tackle these issues are at the very heart of much of what the council does - both day-to-day and in our long-term goals.
So why, you might ask, is a week dedicated to an issue that we already wrestle with every day of every month of every year so important?
I think this week challenges what we know and what we think we know about poverty.
It gives people with lived experience of inequality and poverty another opportunity to be heard - and asks the rest of us to raise our own voices too.
It reminds us that poverty is not a choice - and tries to break down some of the stigma and the preconceptions that many of us have about those that experience it.
The truth is poverty affects us all - directly or indirectly. It is a real issue that affects individuals, families and our communities and together we can all play a role to help care and support those who are less fortunate.
A change in circumstances can happen to anyone and there are many people trapped in the grip of poverty across our city.
I'm proud of the work that colleagues within the council family are doing to put a spotlight on the subject.
If you can, please take a look at some of the events taking place this week - and watch the video about why this event is so important to all of our work.
You can watch the video and access all the financial support routes available to you at www.glasgow.gov.uk/financialwellbeing
The council has agreed a new package of support for council employees with babies in neonatal care.
The need for neonatal care is far more common than many of us may realise - so it is likely that, even if you don't have direct experience of this kind of situation, one of your colleagues will.
In fact, one in seven babies require some level of neonatal care because they are either born prematurely or are sick. To put that in context, around 800 people working for the council become parents each year.
While some babies will receive neonatal care for just a few days, others will remain in hospital for weeks or even months.
It's hard to imagine what a stressful experience that must be for new parents - and there is a wealth of evidence that sick babies have better outcomes when they are able to be hands-on in their care.
Unfortunately, though, parents sometimes find that existing leave does not allow them enough time before they must return to work.
Having a child in neonatal care can also have a massive financial impact for families - with some research estimating average costs of almost £3,000 - considering travel; accommodation, and care for other siblings.
Our job, as an employer, is to give parents the best chance to focus all their attention on their baby.
That is why, ahead of new legislation coming into effect, Glasgow will become one of the first authorities in Scotland - and one of the first big employers - to offer staff enhanced support when new babies require care.
Glasgow is signing up to the 'Employer with Heart' charter, which is advocated by charities Bliss and Smallest Things.
In doing so, we are committing to provide leave at full pay for parents when a baby is born prematurely; to consider flexible working patterns - and offering additional leave where there are ongoing medical needs that require regular hospital appointments or check-ups.
This is not only the right thing for us to do as an employer, but it is absolutely in the council's interests in both the short and the long-term.
At present, many parents report struggling with their mental health after having a baby in neonatal care; with around four-in-ten experiencing anxiety or post-traumatic stress - and one-in-four still affected a year after the birth.
The support will become the latest in a wide range of leave provisions in place to help council employees balance their family and work commitments.
In addition to maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental, and parental bereavement leave and pay provisions - the council's leave arrangements include flexibility for managers to grant time off in special circumstances.
As I'm writing this, the opening ceremony for what is reckoned to be the biggest cycling event ever staged is just hours away.
Just below me, the final preparations for the UCI World Championships are well underway out in George Square.
Over the next eleven days, Glasgow will play host to not only road races, but competition on the track, indoor and trials events and fast and furious competition at our fantastic BMX centre at Knightswood.
There will also be opportunities for Glaswegians to get involved at Go Live sites and through a host of community activities across the city.
Very few cities, anywhere in the world, would be able to bring together such an incredibly diverse selection of disciplines.
That is testament to all the work colleagues from across the council family have put in over many years to turn Glasgow into one of the world's leading destinations for sport - and, indeed, other events.
If you have had a chance to see any of the competition venues taking shape, you will have seen that one of themes of the championships is the 'Power of the Bike'.
That's an idea that's going to be really important to the city for years to come.
You don't need to be an avid fan to understand that cycling is about more than sport.
For some people, who will never pin on a race number, it's purely about fun - a way to relax or keep fit. For others, it's a transport choice - how they get to work or school.
There is also great untapped potential for more people to use pedal power to do business. Across the world, we can already see firms turning to cargo bikes instead of motor vehicles in some urban areas.
However it is used, the Power of the Bike, for cities like Glasgow, is the opportunity to change for the better.
Ours is already a UCI Bike City, but we have ambitious plans to expand access to safe active travel routes beyond all recognition in the years ahead - putting every school, workplace and home with easy reach.
Cycling, walking and wheeling is fundamental not only to our travel and transport plans, but the future shape of our communities.
When the racing is over, the prize for Glasgow is a healthier, more active and better-connected community.
At the end of last month, Ministers and political group leaders at Cosla signed the Verity House Agreement at the local government umbrella body's Edinburgh headquarters.
Although those signing up to the agreement admitted some changes would not happen overnight - and could even look quite different depending on where you live in Scotland - the deal might give us some idea of how the relationship between local and national government might evolve over the next few years.
I don't think it is controversial to say there had been increasing frustration in councils over how spending and also the raising of revenue had been, increasingly, directed by parliament rather than local decisions.
Limits on Council Tax rises, whilst no doubt welcome in many households, have meant local authorities are more and more reliant on central government funding.
Councils had, of course, seen plenty of ringfencing over the decades - but, with resources stretched, being told to make savings while simultaneously protecting some of your biggest budgets created a puzzle few would relish solving.
Given that our contributions to health and social care partnerships were already heavily influenced by Parliament, this meant relatively little of the resources local communities elect councillors to manage were wholly under their control.
Central to the Verity House agreement is a commitment to substantially reduce - if not, explicitly, end - that ringfencing of resources.
The document talks about giving council greater flexibility and establishing a new fiscal framework focused on ensuring local government has what is required to meet local needs.
That goes beyond money. The agreement acknowledges what most people who have worked in local government for a length of time already recognise - that councils, which are closer to their communities than national government, better know and understand their challenges.
You might imagine the logical conclusion to that will be the devolution of more decision-making to councils - and beyond them, where appropriate, into communities and neighbourhoods.
The First Minister, who had promised a new deal for local government as part of his leadership campaign, described it as government accepting that 'something that works for a coastal town in Moray might not apply to a neighbourhood in central Glasgow or a tourist hotspot in the Borders'.
Only time will tell exactly what this agreement will mean for the services we all deliver here in Glasgow and the similar, but distinct, jobs that our local government peers do elsewhere - but I'm confident in the commitment that colleagues all across the council family show in keeping Glasgow's people and places at the heart of everything we do.
With the school holidays and council recess just weeks ahead of us, summer will be here before we know it.
I know that, for lots of you, that means a chance to plan some well-earned rest and more time with family and friends - something that is all the more welcome following a few years when it was often difficult to stay connected.
However, I also understand that the summer months are among the busiest for some of our colleagues.
While recess and the pause in the cycle of committees and reports - not to mention the public interest and discussion that inevitably follows - might mean some outside the council think things have slowed down; this summer in particular is set to pass in a flash.
When Glasgow and Scotland host the UCI Cycling World Championships in August, we'll have one of the best opportunities of recent years to make sure a relatively short event has a long-lasting impact in our community.
Bringing thousands of athletes, media and visitors to our doorstep for the biggest cycling event in the world will not only provide a welcome boost for our economy - but the event can help us become a healthier, happier and more sustainable city.
Before a pedal is turned and after the last rainbow jersey is awarded, Glasgow is committed to improving access to cycling for all.
We are the first in the UK to be awarded the Bike City label by the Union Cycliste Internationale.
Our goals is to make cycling, along with other kinds of active travel like walking and wheeling, the natural choice for everyday journeys for people of all ages and abilities. A safe and attractive way to reach workplaces, schools and shops.
The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships will not only bolster our commitment to day-to-day cycling, but reinforce Glasgow's status as a world-class sporting city in a year when it celebrates being European Capital City of Sport - the first city ever to hold the title twice.
Glasgow already has an immensely strong track record in delivering some of the world's biggest events - from the Commonwealth Games to COP26.
Along with residents and businesses, I've always been clear that teams across the council family play a really invaluable role in that success.
Together, we make sure we are ready to show our best face to the world and help secure a lasting legacy for Glasgow when the show is over.
Whatever your plans for the next few months, at work or in your own time, I hope you have a great summer.
We're less than a month away from the full enforcement of Glasgow's first Low Emission Zone - one of the most significant permanent public health interventions made in recent years.
From 1 June, almost every vehicle entering the city centre will have to comply with modern engine standards, designed to cut pollution and make the air that we breathe cleaner and healthier.
The LEZ can have a positive environmental impact. It can encourage people to choose a less polluting vehicle, or to switch to public transport or active travel for trips to or through the city centre.
These choices can all support our journey to Net Zero. But, first and foremost, the LEZ is a public health measure.
One of the many myths you will see or hear raised in opposition to low emission zones is that they just aren't necessary because Scotland has some of the cleanest air in the world.
While I might wish that were true, it just isn't. Our air quality might be far from the worst in the world, but the fact is that levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide recorded in our city centre are not only damaging to health but breach legal limits.
That can have a horrible impact on our most vulnerable people, their health and their quality of life. Our own friends, neighbours, families and colleagues.
Worse, research suggests poor air quality contributes to around 300 premature deaths in the city every year.
Of course, there are scores of things that are perfectly legal that can shorten our lives; but most of them - smoking, a poor diet, heavy drinking - are things that we do to ourselves, not things that we have no choice but to deal with whenever we step over the door.
I know some people feel the pace of change quick and they have concerns about the impact on their choice of transport - but, stepping back, the necessary measures we are taking have certainly not come out of nowhere.
The UK got its first low emissions zone in 2008, in London - and, since then, there have been discussions about whether and how to introduce measures in Scottish cities, including Glasgow.
In 2015, the city was cited in a Supreme Court ruling on air quality in the UK which demanded urgent action to tackle pollution.
And it has been clear since before the Scottish Government provided the legislation and guidance necessary to push forward with low emission zones in 2017 that leaders in Glasgow would seek to introduce restrictions.
That has been a gradual process - focusing first on buses - allowing the rest of us time to plan ahead for enforcement. In the meantime, cities across Europe have been making similar changes and are starting to see the benefits.
Glasgow's LEZ is no surprise - it has, arguably, been nearly 15 years in the making. I suspect that, in 15 years from now, it will be hard to imagine our city centre any other way.
The local government workforce is responsible for delivering so many crucial services in our communities that it can be difficult for many people to appreciate quite how often they come into contact with their local council.
People will use roads and pavements, lighting and public spaces maintained by the council every day - but they may be less aware of work that underpins the city's economic wellbeing; even how they work and shop and where they spend leisure time.
Services like social care may not feel like a big presence in every life or even every family - but, to those that rely on them, they are absolutely fundamental.
Some, like cleansing or refuse services, are much more visible. And others are so much part of our daily lives that you feel that everyone must be aware of them.
Education is one of the greatest responsibilities we have - to young people, families and our wider communities.
So, it is really pleasing to be able to share a success story on behalf of Glasgow's young people.
New figures from Skills Development Scotland reveal that more of our senior pupils than ever before are entering higher and further education, employment, or training after leaving schools.
In fact, more than 97% of leavers went on to positive destinations - with pupils from four schools, Glasgow Gaelic School; Hyndland Secondary; Lochend High and St. Roch's Secondary, achieving 100%.
I'm so proud of everyone - most of all, our school and head office education staff - for the work they do to support young people and help them achieve their potential.
These figures would be a cause for some satisfaction under any circumstances - but for the city's young people to record its best ever results after three extremely challenging years is extra sweet.
It seems clear that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on young people, but to achieve these results in the face of such disruption is testament to their resilience and that of their teachers and mentors.
This success is also no fluke. This is the second year in a row Glasgow has outperformed the national average for positive destinations - and builds on many years of hard work, from education staff and pupils alike
It reflects the effort schools have put in to developing the young workforce and working with partners to engage young people in vocational and employability programmes.
And it validates our commitment to supporting vulnerable young people both while still in school and in college - helping them to raise not only their qualifications, but their aspirations and their appetite to continue their education.
These destinations for young people matter. There is little we can do that will have a greater positive impact on the lives of young Glaswegians - the opportunities they will have and the health of future generations - than to see them on a positive path as they leave school.
Equality - and gender equality - should be real priorities for any workplace.
They are important, of course, in being a good employer; but not everyone might recognise how addressing inequality at work can also be a bulwark against inequality, misogyny and even violence in wider society.
I'm proud that the council is participating in an accreditation programme designed to progress gender equality, the Equally Safe at Work scheme.
We recognise that there is an integral link between addressing gender inequality and preventing violence against women - and that starts with addressing women's workplace inequality.
By participating in this programme, we will not only demonstrate our commitment to gender equality, but become leaders in our sector.
Our Equality Outcomes for 2021-2025 identified gender equality in the workplace as a key priority in the workplace, and this programme provides us with the tools to make meaningful change for everyone who works in the council.
Over the coming months, we will be undertaking various activities aimed at progressing gender equality and better supporting victim-survivors of violence against women.
That will mean updating and developing new employment policies around violence against women; holding awareness-raising campaigns on gender equality and VAW; offering training to line managers on flexible working and VAW, and developing initiatives to address occupational segregation.'
The programme will also involve a review and update of policies and practices to ensure they are reflective of the needs of all council employees.
As you know, another area in which dealing with inequality has been a real priority in recent years is pay - and settling equal pay claims.
We reached a deal to settle thousands of claims in 2018; raising millions of pounds through a deal which saw City Property take ownership of key properties and lease them back to the council - keeping them in public hands and in public use.
And in November last year, an agreement was struck with the main claimants' group that deals with newer claims and the period after 2018.
Last month, we put in place the funding that will be necessary to honour that deal, working once again with City Property to release the value of our operational venues, offices and other property.
Meanwhile, all sides have been working intensely on the details that will allow individual offers to be determined and issued.
This is a complex process which is still ongoing - and the timescales for completing the task are not entirely in our hands.
However, we are optimistic that we will have agreed claims and pay data by early April, which should allow us to then engage with HMRC on how to deal with the payment of tax and national insurance contributions.
We hope to conclude that process in time to allow individual offers to be made to claimants from late May - meaning payments could begin in June or July.
I understand that claimants are keen to understand what offers will look like - and that, for the wider workforce, it is important to know that this long-standing issue is being brought to a proper conclusion.
I know each and every one of you will be acutely aware that we are fast approaching our annual budget-setting - and how difficult a process that is going to be.
Last month, I shared with you the latest updates in our budget forecasting - and explained why they remained a serious challenge.
In short, the way the Scottish Government's budget was structured means that we cannot include Social Work in our considerations - either to seek savings, or to meet financial pressures.
The council has been told what its contribution to the Health and Social Care Partnership will be and balancing care budgets after that will be a question for the Integrated Joint Board.
You may be aware that this picture has become further complicated by the Scottish Government's announcement that it will require councils to ring fence large elements of the education budget.
We don't yet know what this will look like, or what penalties will be in place for councils that are unable to comply - but what is clear is that our savings, substantial as they are, are expected to be found from an ever-decreasing proportion of our overall budget.
I don't want anyone to be under any impression this will be easy. But please be assured that we will do everything we can to protect the statutory services that communities rely on.
February also marks the formal anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine - although, in truth, the country had been under attack from its neighbour for many years.
The resulting war, on Europe's eastern edge, has had a profound effect on our daily lives.
It has exacerbated the cost of living crisis - driving high energy and food prices. It has also forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes in search of safety elsewhere in Europe and beyond.
Glasgow has decades of experience in supporting displaced people and has provided a warm welcome to hundreds of Ukrainians - some of who are now beginning the next stage of their journey as they are matched to hosts and homes across Scotland.
Colleagues from across the council have been vital in making this work in very difficult circumstances and I hope we can all keep in mind these families and what they have lost.
Time to Talk Day
Across the council, it has never been so important as it is now to reach out and support each another.
Every very small conversation about mental health has the power to make a big difference and Time to Talk Day, which falls tomorrow [Thursday, 2 Feb], gives us a chance to put this into practice.
Lots of resources are available, whether it is to address something that has been troubling you or to help you lend some support to a colleague - and your manager will have shared more information over the last week.
But, as a first step, I would encourage everyone to just make the time to connect with a colleague over a cup of tea. It can make a world of difference.
You can find out more here:
Happy New Year and I hope that everyone was able to relax and enjoy the festive break with families and friends.
And my gratitude to those staff who were working over the holidays to deliver essential services to our citizens - I know that your efforts will have been worthwhile and meant many Glaswegians will have seen a friendly face and no disruption to their care and services.
There is still a lot of doom and gloom in the news - coupled with the weather and dark nights - it is hard to see light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.
But we do have a lot of positives in the months ahead - more international events in the shape of the UCI Cycling Championships in the summer - which will bring competitors and visitors to the city from around the globe.
It will also give Glasgow the chance to shine with television coverage beamed across the world too - Glasgow always rises to the occasion and this time will be no different.
This year we will also see the next round of equal pay settlements being made and I know this will bring much relief to many of our staff and I thank them for their patience in what has been a complex negotiation to reach the financial deal.
We also need to turn our attention to the annual council budget which will be set in February of this year, and the impact this is bound to have.
You will remember I wrote to you in November to tell you about the council's financial forecast for next year. This said that we would need to save around £120 million next year.
As we do every year, we continually update and refine these forecasts and, following the Scottish Government's statement before the end of last year, there has been a marginal improvement in our position.
It is, however, complicated. Decisions taken in the government's budget mean that we essentially now must deal with Social Work - which represents almost a third of our spending - separately from the rest of the council family.
Our forecast spending gap was £120m across the whole family. It is now around £70m - but, while this may sound like a healthy improvement, this does not include any of the significant budget pressures facing social work and social care.
The extent of those pressures is for the Health and Social Care partnership and the Integrated Joint Board to consider - but I think it is clear that, taken together, the financial challenge facing the wider council family has reduced only very slightly.
I know that these figures will be very worrying but please be reassured that your colleagues are working exceptionally hard to make sure we can continue to deliver the statutory services our communities, citizens and businesses rely on.
You can read the update financial forecast here
Thank you once again for your continued commitment to the people of Glasgow and I will keep you updated on budget developments when I can.