Anger as Brown's 'henchman' gets top Treasury role

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The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was last night accused of packing the Civil Service with "party political henchmen" after promoting his special adviser, Ed Balls, to the post of Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was last night accused of packing the Civil Service with "party political henchmen" after promoting his special adviser, Ed Balls, to the post of Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury.

The appointment of Mr Balls caused an outcry among the opposition parties, who claimed it was bending civil service rules, and will raise eyebrows among some Labour MPs. Mr Balls - married to the new Public Health minister, Yvette Cooper - is a Labour Party political apparatchik and one of the stars of the growing band of highly motivated ministerial advisers in Whitehall.

His title represents another step up the ladder for the so-called "golden couple" in the Blair government. Treasury sources said Mr Balls, believed to earn around £60,000 a year, would not get a pay rise, but the post will bring additional status for the Chancellor's right-hand man.

It effectively ends his ambitions to be a Labour MP for this Parliament, friends said last night. One ally said: "He was getting very fed up with the reports that he was looking for a seat near Yvette's. This will knock it on the head."

It also ensures he will not desert Mr Brown who was keen to keep his advice. The Treasury said Mr Balls would take an increased role on international issues following the Chancellor's appointment as chairman of the International Monetary and Financial Committee. Mr Balls has kept mainly in the background in the past, overshadowed by Charlie Whelan, the Chancellor's more outspoken former press adviser, who left the Treasury earlier this year.

Francis Maude, the Tory spokesman on Treasury affairs, said Mr Balls should be barred from party political reviews of policy and political strategy meetings. In a letter to the Chancellor, he protested: "Seeking to combine the positions of Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury and special adviser raises a huge potential conflict of interest." He said it was "yet another example of Labour ministers packing the traditionally neutral civil service with its party political henchmen".

Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, demanded to know why the post had not been advertised."This appointment is covered in the stench of hypocrisy, cynicism and cronyism," he said. "This Labour Government is so arrogant it thinks it can flaunt every convention."

Mr Balls is highly regarded as a backroom "number cruncher" who was involved in the biggest election secret - the decision to make the Bank of England independent of the Treasury.

As a speech writer for Mr Brown, he was responsible for one of the Chancellor's most memorable phrases - "neoclassical endogenous growth theory". Poking fun at the concept, Michael Heseltine, then Deputy Prime Minister, told a Conservative Party conference: "It's not Brown - it's Balls."

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