I've been tracing through what UKIP thinks of the deficit. In brief: like the Tories, they're roughly following the OBR's dummy plans for public spending from the last Budget. But they're doing it in a way that means steeper spending cuts.
I will focus on the current budget - that's the day-to-day spending budget. UKIP wants the current budget in surplus in 2017-18. The OBR path to that requires a £34bn cut in departmental spending over the two years to that target. Then, things get easier.
The Tories have taken the edge off this tough first two years with a plan to cut £12bn from welfare and to raise a further £5bn from tackling tax avoidance by 2017-8. That would mean spending on services need not take the brunt.
What is UKIP doing? It has found cash, too. The biggest items are leaving the EU and cutting the aid budget. But while they have found £23.9bn, they've also spent £19.4bn of it.
As a consequence, they have only identified £4.5bn* a year towards easing the required cuts in the current budget in the two years to 2017-18.
That means that they need to find £30bn per year of real-terms reductions between this year and 2017-18 to fill the hole. Since they intend to shield the NHS and defence, this load would not be evenly spread.
Reasonable people can differ about how to make sense of their plans. But I think, on generous assumptions, they imply that the departments for which we have no specific plans face average cuts of 22% across the first two years.
On similar terms, I think the equivalent number for the Tories comes to a shade under 15%.
After 2017-18, when they have met their target, they intend to keep squeezing for a year, then increasing spending fast in the final year. They plan to run an overall surplus in 2019-20 - including all state spending,
I should note, by the way, that UKIP has introduced one fine innovation - external audit of their plans. How did that do? I applaud them for the idea. The table of costings is very helpful, too.
- While I have used UKIP costings here, I have questions about some of them: the university plan, the expected receipts from leaving the EU and savings from HS2. Publishing workings would be very welcome.
- Some quite big proposals seem to have been wholly uncosted. Getting schools to provide childcare and smaller class sizes would not be cheap. I have basically assumed no uncosted policies will happen.
- The presentation could have been a bit easier to follow. The external company - CEBR, a City consultancy - muddled up tax, spend, current and capital budgets. It was all a bit of a headache to disentangle.
* I've got a different number to UKIP because I'm using figures for current budget spending only, since that's what their 2017-18 fiscal target relates to.