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Smallholder Funding – Or Lack Of It

28 Oct

Regular followers of welshfoodbites might recall the furore when this year’s festival funding was allocated and the shock horror when we learnt that the Smallholder Show would no longer be funded as it didn’t fulfil Wag criteria that food must be the core activity.   

To quickly update you on the background Wag used to run the Food Hall and then asked Steve Shearman – Farmer’s Markets In Wales to run it on their behalf – which he did very successfully. But at this year’s food festival organisers meeting, which Mr Shearman was again invited to, that was the message he was given. Despite the fact that he’d already taken bookings, and after talking to some of the stand holders, he did the honourable thing and went ahead this year, although stand fees had a sizeable increased.

That you might think would be the end of another sad saga, but I decided to raise and Freedom Of Information Act, FOI question about how much money Wag put into Royal Welsh Show. These were the figures sent through:

Lease Costs for the Food Hall – all costs include vat      

2009 £70,645.64 Food Hall Hire for RWS & Winter Fair

2010 £65,403.32 RWS

2010 £19,975.00 Winter Fair

Event Build & Management Costs all costs  include vat

2009 RWS               £155,023.30

2009 Winter Fair £61,355.38

20101 RWS            £131,968.22

2010 Winter Fair £56,078.64

 

What I did find out and rather surprised me was that Smallholder was funded, not from the food festival budget but from ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ – Budget Expenditure Line. I have no idea what this budget is supposed to be for so I asked further questions:

  1. What was the total sum in this budget for 2008/9 2009/10 and 2010/11?
  2. Who received this funding in those three years and how much was given?
  3. How is this funding allocated?  

I thought these were reasonable questions and simple to answer, but dear readers, I was wrong. The answer I received from Wag is as follows:

‘I believe that your request is likely to be very time consuming to deal with. If I estimate that it will cost more than the appropriate established in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 to consider your request, the regulations allow me to refuse to deal with it. The appropriate limit specified for central government is £600.00.  When calculating whether or not your requests exceeds the appropriate time limit, I am allowed to consider the time it is likely to take to establish if we hold the information, locate the information, retrieve the information and extract it. If these tasks are estimated to take more than 24 hours of working time, the limit will have been exceeded’.

As you might guess, I have no wish to pay £600.00 for information to what I believe are simple questions. But my fury is that money has been given out, but this Wag official would have to establish if Wag hold this information. Does anyone know why Wag shouldn’t have this financial information readily available? I’m hardly asking them to dig for records from the dim and distant past, am I?

 

My other query is why was Wag festival criteria applied to the Smallholder, when their funding was not coming out of the Food Festival Budget? Is that same criteria also applied somewhere in the ‘Promoting Welsh Food’ – Budget Expenditure Line rules? Is this how Wag can justify not funding the Smallholder this year?

 

I would sum this up as a can of worms which is proving very difficult and time-consuming to get the facts about…………….

 
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