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Government advisers pledge 'broken'

The coalition Government has been accused of breaking its promise on special advisers after it emerged that costs have risen by £600,000 to £6.8 million this year.

The annual bill for 'Spads' is now the same as under Gordon Brown, and there are more than when Labour left office.

The increase comes despite the coalition agreement pledging a "limit" on the number of political aides for ministers.

Latest figures showed there were 85 Spads in post in mid-October, up from 81 in July. At the end of the last Labour administration there were 80 on the books. Recent additions to the list include David Cameron's deputy chief of staff Oliver Dowden, who earns £125,000, and Nick Clegg's director of strategy Ryan Coetzee on £110,000.

The Cabinet Office said the predicted bill for 2012-13, including salary, severance pay and contributions, was now £6.8 million. A spokeswoman blamed the "unusual circumstances of coalition Government" for the extra recruitment.

Ministers came under fire over the summer when it emerged that Spad numbers had hit 81 and the 2011/12 pay bill had increased by a quarter to £6.2 million. At that time Downing Street defended the figures by pointing out that the overall costs were still lower than the £6.8 million under Labour in 2009/10.

The new list shows top earners remain Andrew Cooper and Craig Oliver, respectively the Prime Minister's strategy and communications chiefs, who both earn £140,000 a year. Mr Cameron's chief of staff Ed Llewellyn is paid £125,000, and "gatekeeper" Kate Fall earns £100,000.

The PM now has 20 Spads and his Liberal Democrat deputy five, while they share another five political appointees in Downing Street.

Labour frontbencher Jon Trickett said: "This is yet another example of David Cameron failing to deliver the change he promised. He was elected on a pledge to limit the number of political spin doctors but he's broken this promise, instead spending taxpayers' cash employing more and more of them.

"At a time when millions are paying more due to his failed economic policies, it says so much about David Cameron that his priority is a tax cut for millionaires while employing more spin doctors to try and deal with the mess he's making of government."


From Belfast Telegraph