Cost of Government advisers to be reduced by £500,000

Updated: 

Theresa May is set to cut the cost of Government advisers by half a million pounds, official records show.

The Prime Minister has the same number of special advisers - 32 - in her team as David Cameron but has reduced the number across Government from 95 to 83.

The projected annual pay bill for the year ahead for the advisers, known as Spads, is £7.9 million, down from £8.4 million last year.

Severance payments for advisers to Mr Cameron's administration totalled £1.7 million between April 2015 and July 13, when Mrs May took over as PM.

The details emerged among a mass of "transparency" material released by the Government the day after the Commons broke up for Christmas.

The biggest earners in Mrs May's office on £140,000 each are joint chiefs of staff Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.

Earlier this month, Ms Hill waded into the row sparked by Nicky Morgan over Mrs May's £995 leather trousers.

After Mrs Morgan criticised the PM's decision to wear the Amanda Wakeley "bitter chocolate" trousers in a photoshoot, Ms Hill warned a Tory MP not to bring her to Number 10 for Brexit talks.

Text messages obtained by the Mail on Sunday show that Ms Hill texted Alistair Burt to tell him "Don't bring that woman to No 10 again" after Mrs Morgan criticised the expense of the trousers.

Westminster watchers have speculated about Mr Timothy's influence after Mrs May made surprising moves to green light a new wave of grammar schools and delay approval of the China-backed Hinkley Point nuclear power plant.

Before entering Downing Street, Mr Timothy had written articles in support of new selective schools and warning about the possibility that China could covertly install software which would allow it to close down Hinkley at will.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has five Spads, one less than George Osborne employed in December 2015.

A former adviser to Mr Osborne - former Daily Mail political editor James Chapman - has found a role in David Davis's newly-created Brexit department, although his salary has been cut by £10,000 to £115,000.

Mr Davis hires one other Spad while Liam Fox at the new Department for International Trade also employs two.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson employs three Spads, with former Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) chief executive David Frost the top earner on £120,000.

Under Labour in 2009-2010 the cost of special advisers was £6.8 million and there were 71 advisers on the government payroll.

Labour highlighted the near doubling of Mr Timothy's salary since he earned £74,000 in a relatively more junior Government position under Mrs May at the Home Office.

The party also stressed that eight Spads are in the top pay band of £95,000 to £142,000.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said: "While most people are having to tighten their belts under the Tories, it's a completely different story for those in Theresa May's inner circle.

"Some of these pay rises are eye-watering. It shows that for the Tories it's one rule for them and another for everyone else."