The coalition Government employs more special advisers than Gordon Brown did, new figures show.
A list of 81 ministerial "Spads" released by 10 Downing Street, one more than at the end of the last Labour administration, includes 19 working for David Cameron and 14 for Nick Clegg.
In its first year the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government employed 69 special advisers - effectively civil servants with licence to act politically on behalf of ministers.
The pay bill hit £6.2 million last year, £600,000 less than under Gordon Brown but up almost 30% on the £4.8 million paid in 2010/11.
A spokesman said the rise was mainly due to many of the new team only being recruited part way through the previous financial period - pointing out that Spads' pay was frozen last year.
Top earners remain the Prime Minister's strategy and communications chiefs Andrew Cooper and Craig Oliver, who both earn £140,000 a year.
Mr Cameron's chief of staff Ed Llewellyn and "gatekeeper" Kate Fall also have six-figure salaries.
The role of special advisers came under scrutiny this year when Adam Smith quit as an aide to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt because of relations with a News International lobbyist.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "There has been an increase in the number of special advisers ... which reflects the unusual circumstances of a coalition.
"The overall numbers as a proportion of the senior civil service are, and will continue to be, very low."
The total had in fact been trimmed in recent months from 84, he said.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "If you look at the numbers the overall cost is still lower than it was in 2009/10.
"Clearly we have a coalition Government and that means we have Spads for two political parties."