Sutton Council is spending almost £200,000 more on spin doctors than last year, despite pledges costs would not rise.

Council bosses hired an external team to replace its own in-house set up in February on the recommendations made in a review which was coincidentally carried out by the incoming public relations team.

The cost of running the council’s in-house team of eight for 2007/08 was £379,000.

It has risen to £573,600 in 2008/2009 for a same-sized team to come in from Westminster City Council to produce official propaganda, an increase of £194,600.

Only one person from the old PR team still works for Sutton Council.

At the time of the new contract, councillor Tony Brett Young said the costs would be “not more than we spend at the moment”.

Deputy leader of Sutton Council Ruth Dombey claimed the increased costs included producing council magazine Sutton Scene, delivering 26 communication campaigns and improvements to the website, but did not provide a breakdown of figures.

Opposition councillors were concerned about the increased cost.

Sutton councillor David Theobald said: “How can we all of a sudden manage to fund this when we can’t afford to fund transport for children with special educational needs?”

Conservative leader of the opposition Paul Scully said: “Good communication between councils and local residents is vital, but so is value for money. £573,000 is a lot of money compared to the old team’s cost – especially given this year’s above-inflation council tax increase.

“Conservatives will be keeping tabs on this cost.”

A confidential report written by Westminster Council in December 2007, leaked to the Sutton Guardian, said that Sutton’s previous in-house team were “below benchmarks’’ and there wasn’t the “quality of communications outputs’’.

Coun Dombey said: “The increase is viewed as a sound investment that should lead to better services and provide better value for money for local people.”

Standing at the helm of Westminster City Council PR is Alex Aiken who previously worked for the Tory party for 23 years and carried out Sutton’s communications review.

Mr Aiken has won contracts to run the public relations departments of a number of local authorities in the last decade.

Westminster provides staff to work in civic office’s PR departments.

The spin doctors remain employed by Westminster City Council but operate in the interests of other councils.

Since then Westminster PR has also beefed up council PR teams at the Isle of Wight, Southwark and Merton and Sutton.