Redbridge Council leader ‘flabbergasted and dismayed’ at special funding deal for Surrey County Council

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal speaking at this year's Holocaust Memorial Day event in Ilf

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal speaking at this year's Holocaust Memorial Day event in Ilford. - Credit: Archant

The leader of Redbridge Council is demanding answers from the prime minister after claims of a sweetheart deal with Surrey County Council came to light.

Cllr Jas Athwal joined 61 other Labour council leaders across the country in writing to Theresa May after details of an alleged special deal over social care funding was revealed at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.

Cllr Athwal told the Recorder he was “flabbergasted and dismayed” at the favouritism of the deal Surrey appears to have received.

“It is atrocious – I cannot believe that in 2017 something like this can be allowed to happen.

“We here in Redbridge have had to work hard and make tough decisions to balance our budget, but it seems as though a blue council like Surrey can just say ‘we can’t do it, we need help’.”

Redbridge’s Labour leader claimed not enough had been done following last Wednesday’s revelations to make clear how Surrey council was being funded.

“This is totally unfair and frankly, if we thought we could threaten to hold a referendum and the government would buckle we would do it.

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“But it seems as though the colour of your MPs determines whether or not you can rely on help from the government.”

The letter, published online in full on Friday, asks six questions, and calls on the prime minister to reveal the extent to which Surrey were offered a special deal and to accept there is a national shortfall in social care across the country.

The letter concludes: “We have a crisis in social care, resulting from the Conservative government’s cuts to local authority funding.

“Secret backroom deals are not the answer. We urgently need a proper solution, which means providing councils with the funding they need to solve this crisis.”

A Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spokesman said: “Surrey County Council informed the government that they wished to become a pilot area.

“The secretary of state for communities and local government told them that this was not possible for 2017/18, but said that, subject to due process and meeting the necessary criteria, they could participate in the 2018/19 pilot.

“All other councils will be free to apply to participate in these pilots, and the government invites them to do so.

“The DCLG has already held discussions about the 2018/19 pilots with several councils and it will be publishing more information shortly.”

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