Theresa May is on the hook and wriggling like a bait-worm – but you’d hardly know it to listen to the news or read the papers. She lied to Parliament – which is supposed to be an automatic resignation offence for any politician with a sliver of integriry – about the Surrey County Council ‘sweetheart deal’ and has been exposed by revealed emails and audio recordings.
Which is probably why she’s still sitting tight.
May will only fall if the public raises such an outcry that the media can no longer ignore it and the Tories decide she’s a liability.
So the fact that she has been caught in yet another lie about the ‘sweetheart’ deal needs to be spread far and wide.
The latest lie – an unambiguous, direct lie to the House – took place just this week as Mrs May attempted yet again to fend off Jeremy Corbyn’s relentless questioning on the matter and is exposed by yet another email.
Tessy, when in a hole, stop digging. Oops, too late.
The background to May’s slip concerns a new scheme called the Business Rates Retention Pilot (BRRP). It allows local councils to keep 100% of the rates they raise from businesses within their boundaries.
When challenged by Corbyn during Wednesday’s PMQs, May made the mistake of making an emphatic – and provably-false – reply. Here is the exchange in question from the official Hansard record:
May: On today of all days, if the right hon. Gentleman could just be a little patient and wait half an hour for the Budget, he will find out what social care funding is available to all councils. If he is asking me whether there was a special deal for Surrey that was not available to other councils, the answer is no. If he is looking to uncover a conspiracy, I suggest he looks behind him.
Corbyn: If all the arrangements are so clear and above board, will the Prime Minister place in the Library of the House a record of all one-to-one meetings between the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Chancellor and any council leader or chair of social services anywhere in England? If there is no special deal, can she explain why Surrey is the only county council to be allowed into the business rates retention pilot when it has been denied to others?
May: The business rates retention pilot will come into force for a number of councils this April, and that includes, as I have already said, Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Greater London and others. In 2019-20, it will be available to 100% of councils. Councils will be able to apply to be part of a further pilot in 2018-19, and that goes for all councils across the country.
Corbyn: The text said that there was a memorandum of understanding, and the Prime Minister said that there was no deal. She is now unclear about that. Did she actually know what arrangement was made with Surrey County Council? She is not keen to answer questions about that.
May: The right hon. Gentleman really should listen to the answers I give before he asks the next question. He said I did not answer the question about a special deal for Surrey; I think that I have now answered it three times, but I shall do it a fourth time: there was no special deal for Surrey that was not available to other councils.
May attempts to dodge Corbyn’s question by listing other councils that are participating in the 2017/18 pilot that begins next month, thereby claiming that it’s not a ‘special deal’ because others have it too.
Unfortunately for Mrs May, Surrey County Council recently released a series of letters and emails under the Freedom of Information Act. Several of those emails concern the hopes of Surrey County Council to participate in the BRRP. or
Forlorn hopes, as the correspondence reveals.
The letters between Surrey County Council (SCC) and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid and his department reveal SCC casting about for any solution to their funding situation. They ask about the possibility of having a different trigger point for the council to raise its council tax without having a referendum and are refused – and they ask about the possibility of joining the 2017/18 BRRP at short notice.
That discussion ends on 6 Feb 2017 with Director of Local Government Finance, Matthew Styles, dashing the hopes of SCC to solve their problem via the 2017-18 pilot on multiple grounds. Here is Styles’ letter to SCC’s Director of Finance:
Styles tells Sheila Little that there is no possibility of adding them – in February – to the pilot starting in April because it would require, among other things, Parliamentary legislation to do so and there is not enough time to carry out all the work involved.
Do you see why we know that Theresa May lied?
If Theresa May’s claim that SCC were in the BRRP in the same way as Liverpool, Manchester etc were true, legislation would have been laid before Parliament and the whole thing would have been a matter of public record long before now. No such legislation has been laid – and if it had, it would not be the same as the other councils.
Which is the very definition of the ‘special treatment‘ Mrs May told Parliament had not taken place.
If SCC have been included in the BRRP at short notice and without legislation – then Theresa May still lied, because such a last-minute exemption is definitely ‘special treatment’.
And if they have not been included in the BRRP, then May lied by claiming that they were when funding must have been allocated via some other trick or mechanism.
Any of those possibilities mean Theresa May is on record telling an outright lie to the House – and is honour-bound to resign. And there is no other possibility.
Case closed. Now spread the word.
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