Jeremy Corbyn claims 'sweetheart deal' was made to Tory council to abandon tax referendum

  • Video report by ITV News Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship.

Prime Minister Theresa May faced accusations that the Government arranged a "sweetheart deal" with a Tory-led council to stop a referendum over council tax.

Surrey County Council abandoned a referendum about plans to raise council tax by 15% in response to a shortfall in funding for social care on Tuesday.At Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested the decision was taken after the council was offered a "special deal" by ministerial employees.

He referred to text messages he had seen between Surrey council leader David Hodge "intended for somebody called Nick" who works for ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The texts by Mr Hodge referred to "killing off" the "R" which Corbyn said stood for "referendum".

Corbyn asked: "How much did the Government offer Surrey County Council to 'kill this off' and is the same sweetheart deal available to every local authority facing the social care crisis?"

But the Prime Minister brushed off the claims as "alternative facts".

Labour MPs could be heard shouting "we want to hear more about Surrey" as May struggled to answer Corbyn's questions.

She said: "What we have given all councils is the opportunity to raise a 3% precept on the council tax for that to go into social care."

The planned 15% rise risked embarrassing Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chancellor Philip Hammond, who both have constituencies in Surrey.

Following the claims made in parliament, Mr Hodge insisted that the decision to scrap a 15% council tax rise in Surrey "was ours alone and there has been no deal" with the Government.

On Tuesday, he said the council will seek a 4.99% rise in council tax although warned that unless there was progress on funding the situation would become "untenable and intolerable".

Corbyn urged the PM to provide local authorities the "funding they need to fund social care properly".

The Prime Minister insisted that funding could only take place when there was a strong economy.

"Conservatives investing in the NHS, Labour bankrupting Britain," she said.