What's a few hundred million between friends?
You may not have tuned in but this afternoon, the Finance Minister gave his formal response to Alistair Darling's budget. We had the line about the "small degree of comfort" being taken that the efficiency savings of over £200m the Assembly Government will have to find next year weren't nearer £300m.
We had the admission that "the huge shockwaves caused by the global economic downturn" mean we'll have to tighten our belts.
And then we had this. "Looking beyond 2010/11, UK Government is seeking to find an additional £9bn of efficiency savings over the period 2011/12 to 2013/14."
Andrew Davies was referring to an additional £9bn of efficiency savings OVER the period 2011/12 to 2013/14.
What Mr Darling in fact announced were planned efficiency savings from 2011 onwards, RISING to £9bn per year by 2013-14.
Let's put it like this.
Mr Darling's version, via the Barnett formula, would have considerably larger knock-on impact on future Assembly Government budgets; a few-hundred-million, dozen new schools, couple of state of the art hospitals and shockingly-good-news-for-local-councils kind of larger.
So who's right?
So this is a case of dodgy grammar rather than dodgy maths?
Let's hope so but the leader of the opposition is less charitable:
"A minister in charge of a £15bn-plus budget really should be able to get his sums right. This discrepancy could have serious consequences for public spending in Wales and the minister needs to set the record straight as to which is the correct figure" says Nick Bourne, adding that "the minister charged with delivering these savings in Wales actually knows how much needs to be saved, where they need to be saved, and when."
Will the Assembly Government clear things up?
They will. But no formal statement until tomorrow.
Someone must want to make sure the wording of the clarification is spot on.
UPDATE: That 'someone' worked quickly and put out a statement last night.
"Over the period 2011/12 to 2013/14 the UK Government has indicated it will find additional efficiency savings, rising to £9bn a year in 2013/14. The detailed levels of efficiency savings in the two preceding financial years - 2011/12 and 2012/13 - are not yet known. This is the position we are preparing for and this was the message behind the Minister's statement today ..."
It may have been the message behind what he said ... but it isn't what he did say. Prepare for some nifty footwork in this afternoon's opposition debate on the budget and public spending.