“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.

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thats interesting.
    Mark Devenport…..£600,000
    Pat Ramsey ….£500,000
    I think Mr Mallie had a different figure a few weeks back.
    No matter….I think we can all agree that it is much too high.

    The Civil Service canteen is also subsidised. As are most canteens in the private centre. And I am sure at least some of the journalists eating at Stormont are getting expenses.

    Its the rest of us that suffer.

  • What about local Government making it easier for social enterprises to tender for these types of contract? Not only would they be getting really good value for money but the added value returned back to those in society that need it most would be increased. Loaf Catering and others like us provide quality catering and profits from our business are put back into services for local people with learning disabilities. I wonder how many of those business people ordering sandwiches for their meetings today thought about using a social enterprise?

  • wild turkey

    When benefit claimaints are forced to do unpaid “voluntary” work or lose benefits, will they be eligble for a subsidised meal?

    It would afterall acquaint the long-term unemployed with the rigours of actively participating in the, uh, labour market.

    • Soup of the day large 96p, small 72p
    • Lasagne, garlic bread and salad: £2.50
    • Feta, spinach and mushroom roulade: £2.30
    • Baked haddock with herb and garlic crust served with mediterranean veg: £3.38
    • Chicken California: £2.76
    • Pork sausages with onions and torpedo roll: £1.60
    • Mint chocolate cheesecake: 90p

  • Joseph Addison

    They should buy their own or take sanwiches like the rest of us. Surely all the catering could be franchised and rent received. It is to be hoped that the bar is not subsidised and charges equivalent standard trade prices. Are there tips or any service charges. The VAT returns would make interesting reading. Thats 50p per voter.

  • DC

    It’s cheaper than a Tesco meal option – I was going to ask does Stormont deliver, but there’s no point, it hasn’t delivered for years.

  • DC

    A review of local Tesco option (28/03/10):


    I read a review dissing Tesco brekkie on here and had to retort. We love our Tesco Breakfast at our local store (Chichester). It’s nothing fancy, just your basic fry up type stuff – bacon, sausage, egg, hash brown, beans, mushrooms, fried bread etc but all tasty and very good value for money. They do also offer continental items, but I can’t comment on those as we’ve not tried them. An 8 item breakfast plus tea / coffee for 2 of us usually comes in at around £7-£8, which is great value for money and you can have as many expensive items (eg egg, bacon) as you want plus free toast!

    You will probably feel your arteries hardening while you’re eating, but if you want a healthy brekkie, have some muesli at home! If it’s a tasty fry up you want at a great price, give Tesco a whirl.
    They also have high chairs if, like us, you have little ones with you!

    £8 for 2 people and for a fry – our MLAs are in a subsidised heaven Baked haddock with herb and garlic crust served with mediterranean veg: £3.38

  • HoHo

    seriously, window dressing. Why worry about the hundreds of millions which need to be found/ saved when they can pretend that a half million quid will make such a difference?
    It’s also ironic that it was Peter “400-quid-a-month-on-my -food-bills” proposing this measure.
    Really, please,please, start working on the big stuff and stop arsing about on the bits MLAs think will make them look good for the voters

  • Cynic

    Good idea. We really need entrepreneurs to take over opportunities like this.

    Now does anyone know perhaps a bright young person who would like to set up a profitable catering establishment in Government premises return for say a modest contribution to start up costs?

    It doesn’t have to be confined to catering. I am sure customers at Stormont would be happy to buy other things – perhaps fruit gums, confectionery, and other comestibles.

    Indeed, the real money spinner might be the fudge concession

  • DC

    Do both.

  • Granni Trixie

    Whatever happoend to “look after the pennies…” mentality? Yes Stormont food money may be a drop in the ocean,but as they keep telling us, we have all to feel the pain
    (of cuts).

    Must say was always impressed at the odd meal I would have in Stormont from time time but did wonder at the rationale for a subsidy (and see Mark Davenport is making a meal of …the meal subsidies).

  • wild turkey

    yeah, i can think of just the young thrusting entrepreneur.

    in fact he has catering experience and currently runs a cafe on the lagan towpath

  • wild turkey


    really? after picketing and storming the barricades, do they ask you in for a stormont super? how civilised.

    joking!!!!.. ok?

  • Biff1

    Anybody know who the contractor is , or when the tender comes up for renewal ?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think its Mount Charles who do the vol au vent buffet stuff for the ordinary folks.

  • Too right. There seems to be a very popular view of politics that we are best represented by a political class whose main skill is an ability to present their receipts.

    Big picture folks!

  • “look after the pennies…” mentality

    Sometimes the big shots prefer to dine downtown, GT. I posted a story recently when Conor Murphy, his SpAd Stephen McGlade, Paul Priestly, Lian Patterson and Lawrence MacKenzie spent £141.60 on ‘lunch and beverages’.

    I don’t know how strong the beverages were but DRD claims to have no minutes of an event where MacKenzie said they discussed the Steria contract and PC 10.

  • GT, some years ago an MLA contact of mine was dining in Stormont when he recognised two buddies having a bite: Ian Paisley jnr and Seymour Sweeney. It was after this that Junior revealed to Stephen Nolan on Radio Ulster that he ‘knew of’ Seymour 🙂

  • MMX

    Surely a chip van could come, they are quite sophisticated now, and they could all troop outside and collect their orders. The space saved could be put to good use. Ideally we need a 50 member assembly which doubles up as a county council. 36 would be elected as is. I.E. 2 from each constituency and 14 province wide from the smaller parties.Also the OCA needs severely cutting and any family members banning from holding these sinecures. One level of mileage allowance only should be allowed say the price of fuel at 45mpg and full mileage dockets and journey justification provided. Journeys to Stormont from home should not qualify etc. etc.
    These legislators need to show leadership, imagination and an altruistic appoach to the job. Politics should be a vocation not a personal cash cow.

  • DC

    We’re all in this together?

  • Biff1

    Many thanks for that information .