One thing that I welcome about Plaid Cymru's approach to this year's conference has been an increased emphasis on policy. However I'm not sure we have quite worked out how to present it.
A perfect example of this is the announcement of a 20p/litre sugary drinks levy to fund 1,000 doctors.
It's a very clever idea, and on the face of it the sums appear to add up; but what is lacking is an actual set of figures to show how they add up. It isn't sufficient for Adam Price to say, as he does here, that the levy will raise between £50m and £60m.
What is needed is a simple, one-page calculation showing what is to be taxed, how much is consumed, and how much will be raised ... balanced against the cost of employing more doctors. This should be sent out in a press release on the day of the policy announcement, and downloadable from the Plaid website.
Hopefully this oversight will be corrected first thing Monday morning.
I can do some of the calculations here. The British Soft Drinks Association report for 2011 is here. On average, each person in the UK consumes 235 litres of soft drinks a year.
The question is how much of this can be described as sugary. Their breakdown is that 62% are "low calorie" or "no added sugar". But it should be noted that drinks such as pure fruit juices are naturally sugary, and that consumption of too much of what we tend to think of as "healthy drinks" also poses health risks in the form of obesity and diabetes. There are reports about it here and here.
Therefore I think it is reasonable to take the 38% of "regular" sugary drinks (89.3 litres per person per year) but add to it the figure for fruit juices and smoothies (19.0 litres per person per year) to give a minimum sugary drink consumption of 108.3 litres per person per year, or 330m litres total for Wales. At 20p a litre, this would raise £66m a year. The actual figure may well be higher than this, because we consume 23.4 litres per person per year of nectars and juice drinks, and a proportion of these will be naturally sugary.
In other words, it looks as if Adam Price was underestimating rather than overestimating the money that would be raised. I think it's safe to say that the policy would raise over £70m, based on current levels of consumption. My guess is that Adam was taking reduced consumption into account.
The second part of the question is how much it costs to employ a doctor. There's a brief report on doctor's salaries here. More specifically, the Welsh figures are here. Without doing an exact breakdown, it would appear that an "average salary" is less than £40,000.
Of course there are additional employment costs in addition to salary, such as employer's NI and pensions contributions. It might well be that the figure of £83,000 quoted here is right, but it seems high and would therefore appear to cover other fixed costs which are probably already being paid for, even though the positions are vacant.
We should also remember that some of the current shortages in permanent doctors are being made up by expensive temporary and agency staff, and that there are significant costs in cancelling or postponing treatment because of lack of available staff. Both these costs would be saved, and these savings would therefore be added to the amount raised by the levy to fund the additional doctors.
All in all, the figures stack up according to the rough calculations I have just done. All that is necessary now is for Plaid to officially publish a similar document. Quickly.