LAST week was marked by the surprise announcement that the Scottish Government will freeze council tax for the upcoming year.

This came as a shock to our local councils and COSLA, the body that represents our local councils, and to senior members of the First Minister's own cabinet!

While I completely acknowledge that freezing council tax seems like a good vote-winning strategy ahead of an impending general election, we should also be honest with people about what that actually means in practice.

Let me explain further.

Over the past year, Inverclyde Council has implemented a series of cuts to make up for the reduction in real-terms funding from the Scottish Government.

The Tele recently reported the senseless destruction of the West Stewart Street underpass in Greenock by unknown vandals. Many councillors have expressed their frustration at not being able to commit to refurbishing the underpass due to a lack of available funding.

Our local authorities must be given the funding they need from the Scottish Government so that we don’t see a further decline in the provision of local services like bin collections and road maintenance.

If that money doesn’t come from increasing council tax, then it surely must come from the central government in Edinburgh.

I note that both COSLA and Scotland’s local authorities were not given advanced warning of this tax freeze and had no opportunity to voice their concerns. That’s not good enough.

As we know, it is not just local councils that are subjected to financial pressures, as seen by recently published plans to cut 17 police officer roles from the Inverclyde. I read a distressing account in the Tele from Jennifer Paton, the manager at Eddy’s Food Station in Greenock. She recalled the gradual escalation from petty shoplifting to robbery, accompanied by threats of violence towards her and her staff by criminals emboldened by the current situation. This has understandably frustrated many Greenock residents who see our struggling police force deal with this increase in anti-social violence and abuse.

I echo the sentiment of many Inverclyde councillors who identify that local officers go above and beyond to protect the public with the resources they have. So, I urge the Scottish Government to think carefully about the consequences of any real-term cuts and freezes to budgets. There is no doubt that we will see services and jobs reduce as a result. Being popular is one thing, being honest with the public is another.