Welsh government meal subsidies 'stick in the throat'

Shadow finance minister Nick Ramsay said meal subsidy costs will 'stick in the throat'

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It sounds like the kind of gourmet meal you would order in a top restaurant.

But work at the Welsh government and grilled Welsh pork loin steak with leek and black pudding mash would set you back just £2.95.

Figures show a 61% rise in funding for subsidised meals for government staff in their canteens over the last three years to £422,800 in 2013/14.

A Welsh government spokesman said the subsidy had risen to cover food at 10 sites instead of five before 2012.

Meals on offer at Cathays Park headquarters and other offices included steamed supreme of Wye salmon with gratin of leeks and crispy bacon wafer for £3.50, while breaded pork escalope - served with seasonal cabbage and buttery mashed potato - was priced at £2.95.

The catering is supplied to 5,800 staff at offices including those in Caernarfon, Aberystwyth and Swansea.

Figures obtained by the Welsh Conservatives showed the subsidy cost taxpayers £1.37m in the past four years.

Shadow finance minister Nick Ramsay AM said: "At a time when many hardworking people have had their pay frozen, a 61% hike in meal subsidies for Carwyn Jones, other Welsh Labour ministers and staff will stick in the throat.

"Labour ministers' assurances that the public subsidy for their meals will fall this year will be cold comfort to families who are working hard to make ends meet and have to pay for their own food."

However Mr Ramsay has been accused of hypocrisy as the National Assembly, where AMs and their staff can eat, also benefits from subsidised canteen - the bill of which was £318,000 in 2013/14.

A Welsh government source said: "This is staggering hypocrisy from a Welsh Tory AM whose colleagues and staff eat in a subsidised canteen alongside journalists, visitors, civil servants and other staff in the National Assembly for Wales - this is a subsidy they support by the way."

But Mr Ramsay said the National Assembly had made in-roads into reducing subsidies in its own canteen in Cardiff Bay.

And a National Assembly spokesman said the body was no different to many other organisations offering a staff catering service, and needed to have evening and weekend facilities for workers.

"However, the National Assembly for Wales is committed to delivering value for money and has managed a 13 per cent reduction in its catering budget since 2009/10," he added.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Welsh government said: "The increase in contract value reflects the extended scope of the contract which has risen from five sites to 10.

"The cost of catering across our administrative estate has been reduced by 47% under the new contract arrangements which began in April this year."

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