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Lord Saatchi's advertising and marketing bill to the Tories may hit £2.5m

LONDON - Lord Saatchi's bill to the Conservative Party for work carried out by his advertising firms in the run-up to its disastrous General Election campaign and while he was chairman, may be as much as £2.5m, it has emerged.

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According to The Times, the fees charged by Lord Saatchi's firms to the debt-laden party are more likely to be around £2.5m, £1m more than previously thought and far higher than the £546,000 that Conservative Party officials have so far confirmed.

The paper also claims that Tory leader Michael Howard was unaware of the size of the sums involved, having delegated much of the campaign management to Australian pollster Lynton Crosby.

It is understood that Howard is also unhappy with Lord Saatchi, following criticism he made about the campaign after resigning as chairman.

A source close to Howard told The Times: "Michael was furious with Maurice's criticisms of the campaign. His sense of outrage will not have been lessened by the revelation of the scale of the costs run up by Maurice's companies."

Latest party figures relating to its 2004 account show that Lord Saatchi's Intermediate Sales Company and advertising agency M&C Saatchi charged the party £339,000 and £207,000 respectively.

It is understood the party owes around £13.5m and is considering moving back to its old Smith Square headquarters, which it has failed to sell following its move to nearby Victoria Street, also in central London.

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