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Archive for September, 2016

Guess What? Another Food Festival Organiser Conference …….

23 Sep

My thanks to the thoughtful person who sent me details of a Welsh Food Festival Conference being held next month and organised by wag food. Apparently wag food are holding another conference because the one held earlier this year was such a success. It’s no surprise to me hearing second-hand about this conference because that’s how I found out about the first one. That’s what happens when you’re not on wag food’s mailing list! Wag food must have their own agenda for not telling a journalist who is so supportive of Welsh food and drink that this conference was happening. Welsh Country magazine is trying its best to back Welsh food and drink, it’s just a shame wag food don’t understand that. So of course I’m back on my soapbox about the lack of communication and just wishing wag food could grasp that communication really is the key.

Would it be too difficult to send out to food journalist the agenda and minutes or outcomes of these conferences? Sorry that was a stupid question because it hasn’t happened, wag food obviously not thinking it worth their time. After all it does take time sending out a couple of emails………………..

Wag Food sent this email out under a save the date communication. Apparently an agenda and full itinerary will follow in due course.

I can only assume it will be a fairly brief ‘conference’ as wag food tell me:

Food Festivals need to manage their own commercial decisions with regards to management, operations of their events. Each event should also maintain feedback, as part of their Quality- Systems and to maintain or better their producer / visitor experience in the future. The feedback forms do not come to Welsh Government. As you will appreciate each Food Festival is responsible to organise their own exhibiting area and food producers. This commercial situation has nothing to do with WG commissioned research and who exhibits is a matter for the said organiser.

Sure there are some Welsh food and drink producers who‘d like to be flies on the wall for that one!

 
 

Scottish Food Manufacturing Growing Twice As Fast As UK Average

08 Sep

Whilst I’m being bashed from pillar to post by wag food seemingly because I’m a journalist asking them questions they’ve no wish to answer, I’m chuffed that the Scottish Government are talking  to me. Mind you, if I were the Scottish Government I’d be broadcasting this news to all and sundry. Scotland says their annual turnover for the food and drink industry reached record levels of £14.4 billion in 2014. It makes sense that they wish to crow that these latest figures also reveal that their food manufacturing sector grew at twice the rate of the UK average, increasing by 43 per cent in Scotland compared to 21 per cent in the UK from 2008-2014. I’d like to give you the reciprocal figures from Wales, but ‘as yet’ I’ve not been sent any and haven’;t bothered asking them for those figures either!

On 4th September, at the start of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing said: “The food and drink sector continues to be one of our most successful and that success shows no sign of slowing down. The industry is vital to Scotland – it creates jobs and wealth, impacts on health and sustainability, and helps attract people to the country by promoting our food and drink around the globe. This record turnover means that the sector is making good progress towards meeting the 2017 target of £16.5 billion, which has been set by Scotland Food & Drink. We are committed to doing all we can in government to support the growth of food and drink production and the contribution it makes to Scotland’s economy. Behind all of these figures are the drive and determination of the people who make up the industry – their hard work is key to ensuring, that Scotland’s food and drink is a success.”

Scotland Food & Drink Chief Executive James Withers also welcomed the announcement. Withers said: “These are great figures and testament to a transformation in food and drink activity in Scotland over the last few years. The sector is not without challenges and uncertainty, but for a sector whose growth was stagnant a few years ago, this has been a major turnaround. The Scottish industry is now being recognised internationally for how it has embraced collaboration to grow, forging a stronger global reputation for our products. Opportunities still abound at home and overseas. We’re investing in developing new customers across the UK and in key international markets. That work, alongside deeper partnership working between different industry bodies and government, will be the key to success in the coming years and central to a new 2030 strategy to be launch early next year.”

Now let me start off by saying Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, well what a great idea, when is Welsh  Food & Drink Fortnight? Well that’s a good question, but do we have a Welsh Food & Drink Fortnight? Or is this something Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites.co.uk has missed? We are here with a huge passion to support Welsh food and drink so it would be a poor deal if we’ve not been told about it. Scotland’s Food & Drink target for 2017 is £16.5 billion, and they remain committed as a government to support the growth of food and drink production and the contribution it makes to Scotland’s economy. To me this is great news for Scotland and makes me think in the Scottish government is not just words from them but action to ensure their food and drink industry does grow. My fear for Wales, as it has been for far too long, is Wales is good on words, but fails on actual action. In my view we lack joined up writing. Yes of course Wales has action plans, I’ve lost count of how many action plans we’ve had over the last decade, my concern is that Wales seems to lack the capacity to turn any action plan into growth.

 

 
 

Further Update On Freedom Of Information 10621

06 Sep

Well what a pleasant surprise, today I’ve had an answer, no sorry I mean reply, to my request for a ‘review’ which was not due until 19th September. Although wag’s email response is headed as a review, wag food have dealt with my ‘review’ as a complaint. Complaint, well that must mean something to wag, but nevertheless an early reply is something, answers would have been even better, but this is wag food I’m trying to get answers from. So as I’ve been asked repeatedly what’s happening with this question, here is their reply in full:

Complaint in respect of ATISN 10621

Thank you for your letter of 19 August seeking a review of our response to your recent request for information regarding funding for food festivals.

Your complaint was:

I cannot accept that the Welsh Government do not hold any information on the questions not answered in this FOI.   

I have carried out a review of our response to you of 17 August. You asked 10 questions, and I see a response was given for points 1-4 and 7-9. On points 5, 6 and 10 our response to you was that we do not hold the information requested.

I understand your complaint to be with respect to our answers on points 5, 6 and 10, and I have restricted this review to consideration of those points.

Specifically, these points are:

  1. From which budgets or other sources of WG funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?

   What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?

  1.      As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

I have spoken with officials who collated the original answer to understand what searches were undertaken to locate the information requested. I then conducted additional searches for the information requested. I have consulted with colleagues in other departments in Welsh Government who have also conducted their own searches for information.

In conducting these additional searches I have also considered the timescale you are interested in. Your first question was for:

  1. Details of all food festivals that applied for funding in 2016 and received £5k?

Officials responding to your request have therefore interpreted all subsequent questions to relate to the time period of 2016 (that is all applications for funding from 1 January 2016 to the date of your request). There is some ambiguity as to whether this includes an application for funding for a food festival taking place in 2016 where the application was received prior to 2016, so for the avoidance of doubt, I have ensured that the search specifically includes these.

These searches have not turned up any new information. In particular, under points 5 and 6, Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff have not applied for or received any funding for food festivals from other sources of funding within Welsh Government in this time period. We hold no information as to whether any other body has provided them funding external to Welsh Government.

Although they have not applied for funding in 2016, I have established that in some cases a food festival might qualify for funding from our Major Events Unit, and if their event were to qualify for funding, the criteria they would need to meet are described here:

hhttp://gov.wales/topics/tourism/marketingl1/majourevents/guidance/?lang=en.

On question 10, you asked where the remainder of this year’s food festival budget had been allocated and we replied that we do not hold recorded information in response to this query. I confirm that we do not hold recorded information on these budget allocations, as the budget has not yet been allocated.

Wag food civil servants must be in training to be politicians, as they’ve certainly learnt the art of not answering questions! I have been talking to them since March about food festival funding and yes, surprise, surprise, it’s  this year I’m interested in. This year they’ve given festivals two dates to apply for funding but then been so slow publishing a full list of funded festivals , I’ve found it pathetic. It was  August before the full list was available. How organisers managed to do their financial planning without knowing if they had wag support was total nonsense, yet as the maximum they can apply for is £5k, wag food are giving the message that basically guys fund it yourself, unless you happen to be one of the big three. Despite Welsh Country magazine supporting Welsh food and drink for over 11 years and the backing we have from so many Welsh food and drink producers, not to mention my talking to, or at wag food about Welsh food festivals, I still didn’t get sent the press release about food festival funding. How weird is that? Communication is the key, but that clearly doesn’t apply to wag food.

All I wanted to know was:

Which festivals have been funded.

Which festivals applied and didn’t get funded.

What’s happened to the remainder of the £160k food festival budget.

What government funding has been given to Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy.

Wag food are spending our money, so why is it so difficult, or near impossible, to find out where that money is being spent. Somebody must be accountable for this spend but it’s infuriating they’re not willing to disclose.

If wag food think their handling of this is acceptable, then it’s further proof we are operating on different planets. I’m in the real world and they clearly are not…………………..