“The contract is continually under review to provide the best value for money.”

According to the BBC report

Subsidised food at Stormont’s canteen costs taxpayers about £500,000 a year, according to a member of the body which manages the assembly.

The report quotes Assembly Commission member, the SDLP’s Pat Ramsay, on yesterday’s Assembly debate

Mr Ramsey told the BBC the Assembly Commission “would be cutting our cloth no different to any other department” and he did not believe the debate was necessary.

“If Peter Robinson or any other minister of the executive was concerned about the functioning of the assembly commission, they could speak to us at any time,” he said.

But it’s worth looking more closely at the £500,000 figure – or as Mark Devenport reveals, the actual figure of £600,000 per annum.

As he says, “I am told it’s not as simple as that.”

The canteen contractor returns some money to the assembly from the food sold, which would lower the overall level of subsidy. However I don’t have a breakdown for that returned cash.

And, more significantly, Mark Devenport quotes a statement from the Assembly

Because of the nature of Assembly business and the requirement that services often be provided during unsocial sitting hours and for events, where the costs of providing such services exceeds the monies taken in, the extra cost is assumed by the Assembly. This is often referred to as a “subsidy”, which does not have any impact on the price of food at any of the assembly’s outlets as the catering contractor is responsible for price setting. Currently the catering contract costs, in real terms, are in the region of £600,000 per annum, with Contractor salaries making up two thirds of this cost.