THE PAY bill for the special advisers employed by the Government has risen by 16 per cent to pounds 5.1m in the past year, Tony Blair disclosed last night.
In the 2000-01 financial year, the politically appointed officials, who act as spin doctors or policy advisers to ministers, cost pounds 4.4m in salaries and pension contributions.
The increase appears to be due to a gradual rise in the advisers' pay rather than an increase in the number being recruited. There are currently 75 in post, down from a total of 81 last year.
The top pay band for the advisers is between pounds 76,876 and pounds 92,250 a year. But two officials earn up to pounds 128,125. They are understood to be Alastair Campbell, the Downing Street director of communications and strategy, and Jonathan Powell, the Number 10 chief of staff, who have special powers to give orders to politically neutral civil servants.
Last night Downing Street refused to reveal the amounts paid to Mr Campbell and Mr Powell.
In a Commons written reply yesterday, the Prime Minister said that 27 of the 75 advisers currently in post were based at Number 10 - representing a threefold increase since John Major's administration. This reflects Mr Blair's desire to build up a "strong centre" for his Government. …