COUNCIL tax is again this week a hot political issue.

Humza Yousaf, the First Minister, announced that bills would be frozen next year.

There was already a freeze in place previously from 2007 that lasted for 10 years.

In Glasgow, it was one year longer as the then Labour-run council under Steven Purcell put in place a freeze in 2006.

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The idea was that the Scottish Government compensated for any rise and gave councils a share of a dedicated pot of cash if they agreed not to impose a rise.

A similar type of deal is being talked about for next year.

Over that same period, however, council budgets were cut dramatically.

In Glasgow, year after year, city treasurers of Labour, then the SNP, have worked with officials in the finance department to come up with balanced budgets that meant cuts totalling hundreds of millions of pounds over a decade or so.

Far and away the biggest contribution to the council budget is what it gets from the government.

So, household bills will be frozen.

The First Minister’s announcement will be welcomed by many people, who are already struggling with increased rent and rising mortgage rates, gas and electric bills, shopping that seems to go up with every trip to the supermarket and rising costs of petrol and insurance for those who run a car.

But are there other implications?

Financial experts have estimated that councils, even if they jacked up council tax by 5% next year, would still be facing a massive shortfall that would require difficult cuts.

If the suggested 3% funding figure turns out to be the case, then any council that was planning on raising council tax by more than that will lose out.

Last year, Glasgow increased its tax by 5%.

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The bottom line is simple. Either councils are given or raise enough money to fund the services they deliver, or those services get cut.

And we are at the point where if cuts are going to continue to be required then it seems reasonable to expect some services will be axed altogether.

The Scottish Government says it has funded local government with an extra £376 million last year, or 3% more.

Even so, councils still had to make service cuts of millions of pounds.

There are – as with any policy announcement on tax – questions about the motivations of the decision.

Is it a political strategy designed to bolster support for a new first minister and a party that has recently lost a crucial by-election ahead of a General Election year?

Or is it a genuine attempt by a new first minister to recognise the cost of living crisis and freeze one of the few bills his government has some power over?

The announcement has similarities with 2007 when John Swinney announced the first freeze.

It was initially to be a stopgap before the council tax was supposed to be replaced with a local income tax – and then was continued in response to households feeling the squeeze after the recession following the financial crash.

If it is a political move, then who benefits most?

Households in the higher bands E to H stand to gain the most.

They were expecting to be hit with a bigger rise next year from 12% up to 22.5%, so the top band will save £750 a year now that the idea has been scrapped.

At the other end, while any saving is welcome, many, but not all people in the lowest bands already get a council tax reduction.

So, it is argued it benefits people on middle and higher incomes more than lower earners.

The timing of the latest announcement has raised questions.

It was revealed at a party conference and just days after a top-level party "summit" to dissect the by-election defeat.

On the one hand, many households will breathe a sigh of relief that at least one bill will not go up next April.

On the other, unless it is funded sufficiently, it could leave councils with yet another gap to plug and the same people spared the rise could see an increase in other charges or a cut in services they either enjoy or depend on.

One way or another, council services need to be paid for. And one way or another, it is the people who will pay for them.