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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Plaid Cymru's pop tax lacks fizz

Plaid Cymru unveiled their big idea yesterday to solve the woes of the Welsh health service and it immediately came under fire.

There is no surprise in that. This is how politics works, with politicians constantly seeking to shoot down their opponent's ideas no matter the merits of a policy. And on the face of it a 20p per litre levy on fizzy drinks does have its good points. It makes it more expensive for people to rot their teeth and enter prematurely the fraught world of diabetes. Plaid Cymru's problem is that they did not stop there.

The party went on to assert that they would use the revenue from the tax to fund 1,000 doctors, thus bolstering the NHS and making reorganisation of key services unnecessary. Now we are entering the land of fantasy politics.

The problems with this concept are many but in short, nobody can guarantee that the revenue stream would be sufficient nor constant enough to ensure that its purpose would be met. To fund 1,000 doctors at £100,000 per annum equals 500 million litres per year or 167 litres per person per annum in Wales. That means that every man, woman and child in Wales would have to consume 3.2 litres of fizzy pop each week for ever and a day.

Given that this is way above current consumption levels and that the objective of the tax is to discourage unhealthy behaviour and thus reduce the use of fizzy drinks there is an immediate financial black hole in these plans. On top of this, as the doctors are needed now so as to avert the planned reorganisation and the Welsh Government does not yet have the power to levy the tax, the plan collapses under the weight of its own inadequacy.

I can think of no better illustration of the Welsh Education system's problems with numeracy.
Revenue Stream or Soda Stream?
Judging by the discarded pop bottles round some of our tourist traps, visitors are doing their best to close the consumption gap. :-)

Do you really think that all doctors, as opposed to GPs, earn 100k a year? Time to go and stand in the corner Black.

Exactly the kind of cheap shot politics you claim to be against...

The reference is ti cost not earnings
So basically you agree its a good idea.

Saying "we need doctors now" is a silly argument against. Nobody is saying that this is the only thing that should be done and just because something needs to be remedied now doesn't mean you shouldn't plan for the future.

Also, saying that revenue would fall as less people drank pop is true but is also a flawed argument. The point of taxing pop specifically would be that as consumption fell, so would NHS costs. If you are against that principle then logically you would be looking to repeal alcohol and cigarette duty, can you confirm this as your position?

Obviously figures will always be banded about by political groups about what a saving or tax could pay for. (Look at lib dems amongst others who point out how trident money could be better spent for example) However, these are normally accepted to be illustrative. Money is very rarely ring fenced so this, along with any other proposal would have to be a part of a budget and not a cure all.

I think everyone accepts that soft drinks alone wont pay for the NHS which is why nobody has said they will.
Actually Plaid Cymru has said that this money will be ring fenced and that it will pay for 1,000 doctors. You say that NHS costs will fall but you cannot quantify that nor can that be backed up. There is no direct correlation between pop drinking and an increased burden on the health service as exists for example with fags and booze. And as for saying we need doctors now that is not my argument it is Plaid's. After all this is their response to the ongoing health reconfiguration which is being driven by a shortage of doctors. You cannot defend a policy by rewriting it.
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