http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=911772004 Anger as spin doctors avoid Brown's cull JAMES KIRKUP POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT LABOURs special advisers are to be spared from Gordon Browns cull of the civil service, prompting anger from unions and opposition parties. The number of government special advisers has more than doubled from 30 under the Conservatives to more than 80 under Labour. The total cost of paying for them has risen to £5.3 million in the year ended in April, according to a little-noticed government announcement made in the last days of the Commons summer session. But despite the Chancellors pledge to curb the growth of the Whitehall workforce, there is no central plan to include any of the advisers in the 70,000 jobs set to be scrapped from central government departments. Instead, the Treasury has said it is up to individual ministers to decide where in their departments to make the cuts required of them. Inquiries by The Scotsman have established that no minister has indicated the intention to get rid of any advisers. Advisers are appointed directly by ministers and allowed to engage in party political activities on behalf of their bosses, although they are classified as members of the Home Civil Services and paid from public funds. The majority of the 83 advisers employed under Labour work at Downing Street for Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. In recent weeks, several MPs have tabled parliamentary questions directed to government departments asking about their plans to reduce the number of special advisers. One department, the Foreign Office, confirmed that it has no plans to reduce its quota of special advisers. All the other ministries and even Downing Street have issued a stock response referring questions to the Treasury, which has given each department a target for job cuts. Publicly, the Treasury insists that it is up to individual departments to choose which staff will be axed, though one Treasury official yesterday said it was "very unlikely" that special advisers would be included in the civil service job cuts. The decision to allow ministerial aides to escape the axe was greeted with widespread anger yesterday. "Despite the fact that they are planning to sack thousands of civil servants, ministers are refusing to allow any special advisers, who are their political apparatchiks, to be part of the cull," said Nigel Evans, a Conservative MP who has raised the issue in parliament. "It seems unfair that ministers who have presided over a doubling of the number of special advisers since 1997 are not willing to sacrifice the odd political appointment as part of this exercise." A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services union, whose members will bear the brunt of the civil service cuts, warned of an "extremely angry" reaction from government workers at the revelation that the ministerial aides are not at risk. There has been concern among even Labour MPs about the proliferation of special advisers. The Labour-dominated Public Administration Committee recommended two years ago that a cap be placed on the number of political aides, and called for an open recruitment process to replace ministers ability to appoint advisers without competition. "Employing ministers, senior civil servants and special advisers costs ten times as much as hiring tea ladies, but when there is a head-count reduction, it is the low-paid staff who get sacked," said Vincent Cable, the Liberal Democrats Treasury spokesman. "I imagine we will not see many, if any, senior heads roll."