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Archive for November, 2015

 Another Wag Game Of Smoke & Mirrors

23 Nov

But the reply is my supposed answer to yet another Freedom Of Information question, ATISN 9881, the Evaluation of Food Festivals 2015 – 2016, yet it is another one that raises further questions. Follows is the Welsh Government’s response in full:
Thank you for your request which I received on 23.10.15. You asked for:
1. Which 6 Festivals are being evaluated and why were these 6 selected?
We do not hold any information regarding this point. To clarify, we are not carrying out evaluation of individual festivals. Those festivals visited are for the purpose of visitor surveys. The events selected this year were:
St Fagans – established event;
Narberth – well established event;
Newport – Recently established event;
Abergavenny – Large festival;
Conwy Feast – Large festival;
Beaumaris – New event.
The range of events was chosen for geographical spread.
2. Why has the policy changed in that not all funded festivals are evaluated
There has not been a WG policy in place to evaluate all funded festivals, and thus we do not hold any recorded information in response to your request.
To clarify, the previous EU funded food festivals grant scheme required the monitoring of all grant aided festivals. The EU funding for the scheme came to an end in 2012. In subsequent years a range of supported festivals have been visited for the purpose of conducting visitor surveys as part of the overall Evaluation of Welsh Government support for Food Festivals.

Now isn’t this interesting information from wag? Sorry, stop the sarcasm Kath. I meant confusing. St Fagans according to wag is an ‘established’ event. OK, but according to my records this festival first ran in 2010, without funding and then in 2011, again without funding. They did however obtain funding in 2013 of £7k. So let’s remember that in ‘wag’s world,’ St Fagans is an ‘established’ event. So let’s think about Newport which was selected for evaluation because in ‘wag’s world’ that’s a ‘recently established’ event, but according to Newport’s website their festival was 5 years old in 2015, so they too kicked off in 2010. According to my records Newport were funded £15k+ in 2011 and £8k+ in 2012.

It’s not for the first time that I’m puzzled about wag’s understanding of what’s ‘established’ and what’s ‘recently established’, but as I’m not a civil servant, perhaps I deserved to be puzzled. Wag say they chose the events for geographical spread, but with Beaumaris and Conwy both situated in the north, Narbeth in Pembrokeshire, Newport and St Fagans, both close to Cardiff, Abergavenny in Monmouthshire – is this really a geographical spread? Or has mid Wales just disappeared?

Just for further interest following more digging, in 2013 I understand Wavehill visited St Fagans, Abergavenny, Narbeth,  – can anyone see a pattern here? Then also Mold, Conwy and Hay

My next question, IF wag are correct, why did I see Wavehill at Cardigan food festival in August? Could I have been dreaming? Surely not!
For me it is so frustrating that Wag food constantly try to duck reasonable questions. My sole reason for continuing to ask them, when other more sensible people would have given up long ago, is that to Welsh Country magazine, Welsh food and drink is important. If wag food agrees that Welsh food and drink is important, then just answer the questions I ask, unless you have something you think is worth hiding, which is certainly how this appears.

Wag this is our money you are spending, so justify this spend please………………………………….

P.S.

Just heard from a producer who had a telephone call from Wavehill on Monday asking for views on food festivals this year. Proof if proof were needed for Wavehill, this food company did not trade this year and did not attend any Welsh food festivals. Now the question is, why is wag wasting OUR money paying Wavehill who are obviously not using tradestand lists supplied by festival organises this year? Second question has to be why on earth are Wavehill NOT using this year’s lists?

Now who said give up?

 
 

What A Waste Of Time

12 Nov

It’s no secret that Welsh Country magazine is strong on Welsh food and drink and as the Wag Food department rarely send out press releases, it’s down to me as a journalist to find out what is happening in the Welsh world of food and drink. So I sent through a Freedom Of Information Act Question 9849 and yesterday received the following response:

I wrote to you on 20 October regarding your request for information. You asked:

1. During 2015/2016 which food festivals were supported through Major Events Unit and how much funding did they receive?

2. What criteria must be met for festivals to receive additional funding from Major Events Unit?

I can confirm that one food festival was supported through the Major Events Unit in 2015, the Conwy Feast. I have concluded that the amount of funding they received is exempt under Section 29(1)(b) – economic interests of the Freedom of Information Act. Full reasoning for applying this exemption can be seen at Annex 1 attached. I have also concluded that the criteria to apply for funding is exempt from disclosure under Section 21 of the FoIA, information otherwise available. Please visit our website at:

http://gov.wales/topics/tourism/marketingl1/majorevents/guidance

ANNEX 1

Decisions relating to non-disclosure have been taken with due consideration of the exemption identified under Section 29(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA). This is a qualified (public interest tested) exemption and in order to engage it, I must show that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in releasing it.

Section 29(1)(b) – Economic Interests

This states:

29 (1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice –

(b) the financial interests of any administration in the United Kingdom, as defined by section 28(2).

The Welsh Government recognises its responsibility to ensure that it invests wisely on behalf of the people of Wales. Every event seeking funding has to go through a rigorous assessment process. Different events have different levels of economic impact or international profile and funding is therefore dependant on this and other factors such as delivery of impacts for example volunteers, training and other skills which, in turn help to create an environment which stimulates and assists new enterprise and growth.

I believe that releasing the funding amount would be likely to create a level of expectation by other festivals/event organisers in believing that they would be entitled to an equal or similar amount of funding. This would be likely to prejudice any future negotiations between the Welsh Government and other event organisers as each event is different and each application is based on merit. I believe this, in turn, would be likely to prejudice the financial interests of the Welsh Government as it would prejudice our negotiating position and our efforts to ensure best value for the Welsh pound.

Whilst I accept that, as a public body, the public will always have an interest in the work of the Welsh Government and that release of this information would engender our willingness to be open and transparent in the way that we work, I do not believe there is any pressing public interest in the release of this information. I do not believe it is in the wider public interest to prejudice the financial interests of the Welsh Government and our efforts to obtain value for money in future negotiations using the public purse.

I am satisfied, therefore, that releasing the information would be likely to prejudice financial interests as defined by this exemption.

Well wouldn’t it be a bonus to have an open and straightforward government? I thought wI’d sent through a sensible and fair question, but the Welsh Government deem my question is exempt under Section 29(1)(b) economic interests of the FOI. So I’m told – and not for the first time – that the Welsh Government do not believe it is in the wider public interest to prejudice the financial interests of the Welsh Government and their efforts to obtain value for money in future negotiations using the public purse.

I believe that releasing the funding amount would be likely to create a level of expectation by other festivals/event organisers in believing that they would be entitled to an equal or similar amount of funding.

Now just what does this paragraph mean? There is money in the Major Events Unit, but wag will not say how much money Conwy got this year from MEU – our reason is just in case other festivals might expect to get money from this funding source too. That might make sense to civil servants, but it certainly doesn’t make sense to me. Why shouldn’t other festivals apply to the MEU, bearing in mind they have to know Visit Wales has such a unit with funding available, they still have to jump through all the wag/Visit Wales hoops, so what does it matter to disclose how much Conwy got this year?  If money is available for festivals through the MEU then I think all food festivals should know about it and see if they want to jump through even more hoops. At least wag/Visit Wales give them a choice.  I’m very impressed that Conwy were smart enough to know about the existance of the MEU and that they grabbed the opportunity to gain extra funding from that source. Well done them!

The reason I asked the question was my concern that the Welsh Government do not often in my opinion, obtain value for money from the public purse and I want to know where the Government’s money goes. Well it’s not the Government’s money, this is OUR money, our money, even if it comes via Europe. So why can’t we know how our money is spent?

Often I believe that the Welsh Government has a total disregard for the value of tax payers’ money. This is just my latest example of being told basically that it’s not in the public interest to know how much money Visit Wales has given to a food festival under the Major Events Unit.

Open, transparent government is what I think the Welsh public deserve, but in my view they are not getting it.