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  1. ITV Report

Prime Minister denies Surrey County Council received special tax hike deal

The Prime Minister has rejected renewed claims that the government struck a special deal with the leader of Surrey council to avoid a 15% hike in council tax to pay for social care.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue again during Prime Minister's Questions, and asked Mrs May to "explain the difference between a sweetheart deal and a gentleman's agreement" in relation to the council's decision not to go ahead with the tax increase.

But Mrs May repeatedly rejected the idea that there was a "conspiracy" to stop Surrey holding a referendum on a tax rise in a Tory area that would have been politically embarrassing.

She said: "The substance of what you are asking is, has there been a particular deal with Surrey County Council that is not available to other councils? And the answer to that is no."

A leaked recording revealed that David Hodge, the Conservative leader of Surrey County Council, told a private meeting that he had dealt directly with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to tackle the council tax issue.

Mr Hodge said he had secured a "gentleman's agreement" to avoid a referendum to approve the 15% tax hike.

But Downing Street has repeatedly denied that a "sweetheart deal" was struck.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May clashed during PMQs. Credit: House of Commons

Mr Corbyn said that if the arrangements with Surrey are "so clear and above board" then Mrs May should publish details of any and all meetings between Mr Javid, the Chancellor Philip Hammond and any council leader.

Mrs May said: "The business rate retention pilot will be coming into force for a number of councils this April.

"That includes, as I have already said in answer to your earlier question, Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Greater London and some others.

"In 2019/20 it is going to be available to 100% of councils.

"For 2018/19 councils are able to apply to be part of a further pilot. That goes for all councils across the country."

Mr Corbyn said Mrs May was still being "unclear" about whether a deal had been done with Surrey, prompting the Prime Minister and her colleagues on the frontbench to laugh.

She said: "Can I just say to you that really you should listen to the answers I give before you ask the next question."