Philip Hammond lobbied for Surrey County Council over social care
Questions over a “secret deal” for Surrey County Council have been raised again after it emerged Philip Hammond lobbied on behalf of the authority in the row over cash for social care.
A freedom of information request has revealed the Chancellor wrote to the authority’s deputy leader, Peter Martin, saying he would take up concerns about social care with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.
Tory MP Jonathan Lord, whose constituency is also in Surrey, wrote to council leader David Hodge and other local MPs in January claiming Mr Javid might have “£40m hidden under the departmental sofa” for the council.
The FoI, lodged by the BBC, adds further fuel to claims - strongly denied by Theresa May - that ministers struck a special agreement with Surrey Council to avert a potentially embarrassing referendum on increasing council tax to 15%.
In one letter, Mr Hodge accused Mr Javid of “some seriously muddled thinking” and warned of the consequences if additional help was not allocated.
“We will see the largest Conservative group in the country pitted against a Conservative government, and we will be blunt about where we think the blame lies,” he said.
Mr Hammond wrote to Mr Hodge in September: “I recognise the challenges you are facing in Surrey, and the apparently harsh treatment that the funding formula delivers, and I will take this up with Sajid Javid.”
Conservative MP Mr Lord wrote in a November email: “I have spoken to Sajid J, and he says he’s doing something for us...
“Won’t be drawn on exactly what. Says that Philip H is being supportive and will be signing off on things for us.”
In a subsequent email in January, Mr Lord said he was “extremely unimpressed” that the Communities Secretary had not “come up with the goods”.
“If Saj was imprudent enough to not have £40m hidden under the departmental sofa just for this sort of emergency/problem/‘outlier’ emerging from his department’s draft settlement, then I assume, if he is a man of his word, that he must have done his best to put a strong case to the Treasury," he wrote.
“If all his local government settlement money is really allocated, if the Treasury is refusing to help out, and if he can’t find a pot of money for the ‘missing’ learning disability grants, then Saj still has the option of adjusting all the other council settlements down very slightly in order to accommodate the £31m needed for Surrey – and I think he should be encouraged to do this.”
Other Surrey MPs to lobby for the council included Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Crispin Blunt, and former ministers Michael Gove and Dominic Raab.
At Prime Minister's Questions yesterday Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn piled pressure on the Prime Minister after a recording was leaked earlier this week of Mr Hodge saying he had secured a "gentleman's agreement" on social care with the Government.
Mrs May insisted that no special deal had been made, but Labour said the latest revelations are more evidence of the Tories secret deal with the leadership of Surrey County Council.
“There is a huge crisis in social care which today’s budget won’t fix. What we need from the Tories is a long term sustainable plan, rather than sweetheart deals for Tories councils,” said Shadow Communities Secretary Teresa Pearce.
“Theresa May needs to come clean. We need full disclosure of the terms of the deal and reassurance that all councils will be treated the same way not just the lucky few the Tories favour.”
A government spokesman said: “As we have repeatedly made clear, there was no special deal for Surrey county council and they will not receive any extra funding that would not otherwise be provided or offered to other councils. To imply the opposite is simply untrue."