Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of using a “sweetheart deal” to buy off a Tory council’s bid to hike council tax by 15 per cent in order to fund its spiralling social care costs.

Speaking to parliament in the weekly prime minister’s questions session, Mr Corbyn claimed to have seen text messages between the Surrey County Council leader and a communities department civil servant proving that Westminster had offered the county a deal.

“The numbers you indicated are the numbers that I understand are acceptable for me to accept and call off the [referendum],” one text message read.

Mrs May replied that the decision on whether or not to hold a vote was entirely a matter for the local authorities.

As we reported yesterday, councils around Britain had been watching to see if Surrey would become the first county to levy additional tax to cover the cost of elderly and disabled care. Collectively, councils face a funding gap of £2.6bn by 2020 for such care after cuts in central government funding.

Surrey had planned to hold a vote on charging an extra 15 per cent precept to cover social care but the Conservative-run council, which includes the constituency of Philip Hammond, the chancellor, backed down after David Hodge, the council leader, said he was “confident” that the funding position would be “completely different” by next year.

Reporting by Katie Martin and Kate Allen.

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