In Brief

May under pressure over 'sweetheart deal' texts with Surrey council

Jeremy Corbyn accuses Prime Minister of striking secret tax deal with wealthy Conservative council

Theresa May has been accused of offering a Conservative local authority a "sweetheart deal" to avoid a referendum on raising council tax to fund social care.

She was ambushed at PMQs yesterday, when Labour leader read out leaked text messages from the leader of Surrey County Council, David Hodge, discussing a "memorandum of understanding" between the local authority and government.

The flagship Tory council, which controls one of the richest areas of the country, had planned to hold a referendum on raising council tax after warning that the social care system would be unsustainable without a sharp funding rise.

However, it abruptly cancelled the vote on Tuesday.

The proposed 15 per cent rise could have embarrassed Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, who both have constituencies in the area.

"May now faces questions about what the government has offered Surrey, a Conservative stronghold, in order to cancel the referendum," says The Guardian.

Hodge told ITV that he "swears on the bible there was no sweetheart deal", but the PM refused six times to answer Corbyn's question about what Surrey council had been offered and accused the opposition leader of using "alternative facts".

The revelation "came as the National Audit Office warned that the government's £5.3bn plan to better integrate health and social care is failing to save money or stem the rise in hospital admissions", says The Independent.

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