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No 10 discloses salaries of political advisers

With the attention of the British press and public concentrated on the committee hearings at Portcullis House over the phone-hacking scandal, Downing Street chose yesterday to publish the salaries of ministerial special advisers.

The top earners are Craig Oliver, the Prime Minister's head of communications, and the new director of political strategy, Andrew Cooper; they both earn £140,000. That is the same amount paid to the former No 10 communications chief and News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, who quit his role in January in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

Nick Clegg's chief of staff, Jonny Oates, earns £98,500.

The total pay bill for the political aides, known as SpAds, for the period 13 May 2010 to 31 March 2011 was £4.5m, which Downing Street pointed out is less than the £6.8m paid between 6 April 2009 and 31 March 2010.

A total of £2.1m was also paid for the period 1 April 2010 to 12 May 2010, the bulk of which – £1.8m – was severance pay to Labour's special advisers who lost their jobs when Labour lost the general election.

David Cameron's press officer, Gabby Bertin, earns £80,000. Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister's director of strategy and "Notting Hill set" stalwart, earns £90,000, a salary unaffected by the February arrival of the similar sounding director of political strategy, Andrew Cooper.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Julia Goldsworthy, who narrowly lost her highly marginal Cornish seat at the 2010 election, now earns £74,000 as special adviser to Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury. That is considerably more than the £65,738 she earned as an MP.