£6.8m bill for special advisers

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THE Government’s bill for special advisers has risen by £600,000 to £6.8m this year – the same level as under Gordon Brown.

Despite the Coalition Agreement pledging a “limit” on adviser numbers, the latest figures showed there were 85 by the middle of last month, up from 81 in July. At the end of the 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 £6.8m.

Ministers came under fire over the summer when it emerged that special adviser numbers had hit 81 and the 2011/12 pay bill had increased by a quarter to £6.2m.

Downing Street defended the figures by pointing out that the overall costs were still lower than the £6.8m under Labour in 2009/10.

The latest 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 Premier now has 20 special advisers and his Liberal Democrat deputy five, while they share another five political appointees in Downing Street.