PUBLIC relations spin is costing Welsh taxpayers more than £4m a year, Wales on Sunday can reveal today.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show how much the Assembly, councils and quangos are splashing out on PR experts.
The cash is spent on press office teams who promote their council, but often have to put a positive spin on bad news like Council Tax increases and minimise the damage of embarrassments.
The biggest spending body is the Welsh Assembly Government, which spends almost £750,000 a year on its 24-strong news centre.
Twenty-two spin doctors work for the Assembly Government, at a cost of £666,000, and two for the Parliamentary Service, costing £70,000.
Plaid Cymru opposition leader Ieuan Wyn Jones last night blasted the expenditure.
He said: "It proves that Labour Assembly Government policy announcements are all spin, not substance."
But the Assembly Government said the cash brought millions of pounds of positive publicity for Wales.
A Welsh Assembly spokeswoman said: "We do not place a high priority on public relations, but we place a very high priority on communication.
"Our press office sends out more than 1,000 news releases a year and responds to more than 5,000 inquiries per year from the press and media.
"The Welsh Assembly Government is accountable to the people of Wales - they have a right to know what we are doing and why.
"Each Whitehall department has its own dedicated press office serving each UK Minister - in Wales we have one office serving nine ministers. The size of the Welsh Assembly Government press office reflects the increased appetite for news since devolution."
From major controversies such as the cost of the Assembly building to delays in school renovation programmes and roadworks which will cause chaos for motorists - all are subject to a PR strategy to minimise bad publicity.
And we can reveal that across just a small sample of public bodies, including the 22 Welsh local authorities, the bill for PR stands at more than £4m annually.
Across Wales, only Torfaen Council failed to respond to our request.
The costs range from the Assembly's spend of almost £750,000 to Conwy Council's tiny £28,000.
The bill for Swansea Council is £314,000 and for the Welsh Development Agency a whopping £590,000.
In the 22 Welsh councils, a total of 72 press officers are employed to answer inquiries and generate positive coverage.
The overall cost would rise even further if the cost of PR for hospitals, primary care trusts, police and dozens of other institutions was included.
Mr Wyn Jones said: "Tony Blair promised an end to spin earlier this year. On this evidence the public can see spin is alive and kicking in Wales.
"Let's see how New Labour spins these figures. They should put money into cutting waiting lists and saving schools from closure."
His views were echoed by his Tory counterpart Nick Bourne.
He said: "This raises some serious questions. Do we need so many press officers?
"When the Welsh Development Agency is brought in-house I seriously question whether they'll streamline it.
"I expect we'll end up with 32 press officers plus however many more.
"Obviously, we need press officers - I've got one for my group in the Assembly - but this really is ridiculous. It's a massive growth industry.
"We put down questions periodically about this and it's probably time we put down a few more."
But Jacqui Bowen, head of media relations for the Assembly's Parliamentary Service, insisted that low turnout in Assembly relations made their work vital.
"Assembly Parliamentary Services is committed to raising awareness of the Assembly as a parliamentary institution and media relations is an important part of this," she said.
"At a time of concern about low turnout in elections, it's vital that the public should be given clear information about the Assembly and how it works and this is not possible if the media is not properly informed."