THE gourmet tastes of Welsh Government civil servants are costing taxpayers £423,000, it has been reported.
The Welsh Government has been criticised for the level of subsidy it provides at staff canteens.
The bill to the public purse for subsidising civil servants' food has gone up by 61per cent in the last four years as new staff canteens have been opened in more Welsh Government offices.
The figures, revealed by the Welsh Conservatives, have kicked off a debate on whether the tax-payer should foot any of the expense.
The Conservatives labelled the rise was "eye-watering" but a Welsh Government source hit back, accusing Tories of "staggering hypocrisy", as the party supported a subsidy in National Assembly buildings.
In information revealed in a written answer to the Welsh Conservatives from Finance Minister Jane Hutt, it emerged the annual cost to taxpayers for meals at Welsh Government offices had risen to nearly £423,000 in 2013-14 from nearly £262,000 in 2010-11. The answer showed more than £1.3million had been forked out in that time.
Ms Hutt's answer stressed that while the overall bill had gone up over the three years, costs would fall this year after a new catering contract was signed in April.
Nick Ramsay, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance Minister, said: "At a time when many hardworking people have had their pay frozen, a 61 per cent hike in meal subsidies for Carwyn Jones, other Welsh Labour Ministers and staff will stick in the throat.
A Welsh Government spokesman said the comments were "wildly misleading".