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Posts Tagged ‘Conwy Feast’

What A Waste Of Time

07 Apr

I last posted under this same heading on 12th November following my Freedom Of Information Act, question Number 9849 which I sent through on 16th October.

Feel free to read the full story, but to summarise, I was asking what food festivals, if any, had received additional funding from the Major Events Unit, MEU, run through Visit Wales during 2015. In my reply I was told that the only food festival getting funding from MEU in 2015 was Conwy, but I was not allowed to know how much they received. Instead I was told:

The Welsh Government is satisfied, therefore, that releasing the information would be likely to prejudice financial interests as defined by this exemption.

The Welsh Government deemed my question was 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 does 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 have never heard such government rubbish. The Welsh government is spending money they’ve received from taxpayers, but we as taxpayers have no right to be told how much Conwy received. Why is it a secret? How can telling me in 2016 what Conwy got awarded in 2015 have anything to do with obtaining value for money in future negotiations using the public purse? When have any food festivals been able to ‘negotiate’ what funding they could get from MEU? I understood that Conwy would have had to tick and explain why this money was needed as they completed MEU paperwork, with no guarantee they’d get what they asked for. Negotiate? That is not true.

So after my FOI question was refused, wag explained that I could go back to them for a ‘review’. Of course I did that for wag to then turn my ‘review’ into a ‘complaint’. Wag then took a further 20 days, as they are allowed to do, before replying to say my ‘complaint’ is not upheld – well what a surprise! Wag are satisfied that is was correct to withhold the amount of funding awarded to Conwy Feast under Section 29(1)(b) of the FOI act.

I’m concerned and puzzled as I’m not sure all food festivals are aware that there is another money stream available through MEU, providing they can tick MEU boxes. All organisers still have to jump through the wag/Visit Wales hoops, so I don’t understand why wag refuse to disclose how much Conwy got this year? If money is available for food festivals through the MEU then I think all food festival organisers should know about it and see if they want to apply and complete all the required paperwork. I’m very impressed that Conwy were smart enough to know about the existence of the MEU and that they grabbed the opportunity to gain extra funding from that source. Well done them!

Still not accepting wag’s refusal to answer my question/complaint, I’m then allowed to go to the Information Commissioners Office, which of course I did. After ICO had investigated their response was in brief:

I have now considered the Welsh Government’s response and I will be contacting it later today to let it know that I am not satisfied that section 29(1)(b) of the FOIA is engaged in respect of the disputed information, and will ask it to reconsider its position.

In the event that it is prepared to disclose the disputed information to you, your complaint can be closed informally. However, in the event that it maintains its reliance on section 29(1)(b) and refuses to disclose the information, I will need to draft a formal decision notice instructing it to disclose the information.

However, please be aware, that both parties have the right to appeal the decision notice to the First-tier Tribunal (information Rights). In the event that the Welsh Government decides to exercise that right, it will not be required to provide the information until at least after the Tribunal has reached its decision, and only then if the Tribunal upholds our decision notice.

The Welsh Government will be allowed 10 working days to respond, and I will of course update you when I have received its decision.

Eventually, some six months later on 6th April, I have been sent the following from wag/MEU shown in full:

I write following your complaint to the Information Commissioner regarding our decision to withhold the amount of funding awarded to Conwy Feast in 2015/16.

I can now confirm that the total amount awarded is £10,000.

No you haven’t missed the apology; you haven’t missed the explanation of why they were wrong to deny me that information. Wag simply couldn’t be bothered to clarify why the ICO and I have had to waste so much time and why they have now changed their mind and given me the answer I wanted in October. I cannot see that it makes any difference in 2016 how much Conwy received, in that I cannot change them getting that funding, even if I wanted to, which I don’t. That money was authorised, given out and spent but that doesn’t me taxpayers and that’s me too, don’t deserve to know how much cash was given. My annoyance is with wag’s attitude and why wag make something fairly trivial into a Government secret. I think I’m correct in saying that any money given out by the government over £25k is shown on their website, if you’re able to find it. But under that as I have proved is fairly difficult to find out where our cash goes.

The ironic point is whilst I was pursuing this I was also keeping a couple of AMs informed and one of them came back to me last December with the following information:

The Major Events Unit of Visit Wales also supports a limited number of the larger food festivals due to their status as visitor attractions in their own right and their contribution to the local hospitality, catering and retail sectors. Currently, this support is confirmed for two food festivals, the Pembrokeshire Fish Week (£75,000 over three years 2012-14) and the Gwledd Conwy Feast (£50,000 over three years 2013-2015).

In 2013 and 2014 when the wag food limit was £10k per festival this is what Conwy were awarded from the food festival budget and in 2015, when the alrger festivals could claim about £10k, Conwy were awarded £15,255.   

Welsh Country magazine has always promoted Welsh food and drink and I don’t think it unfair that my s I’m furious with wag and their petty, childish attitude and taking 6 months to answer an FOI question. asking a simple question should involved all this time, effort and work. Welsh Country has promised to back and support our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, BOW, and that’s what I intend to keep doing.

You could never run a business as they run the Welsh Government………………..

 
 

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.

 
 

9610 Food Festivals & Events

04 Aug

You’ve been asking me questions about food festivals and as I’ve not known the answers, because wag food haven’t told me, I’ve had to send another FOI through to get this information. Follows is wag’s answer in full:

1. I require a full list of all festivals that applied for Welsh Government funding for 2015 in the first and second tranches.
2. How much funding did each festival apply for?
3. A full list of festivals that applied for funding and were not successful. Also the amount they requested.
4. The reason why each festival either wasn’t funded or had their original funding request reduced.
5. For second tranche of funding I require answers to questions 1, 2, and 3 above.
1. Details of all Food Festivals supported within the first and second tranche of support have been published on the following page:

http://gov.wales/topics/environmentcountryside/foodanddrink/supportforfoodproducers/supportforfoodfestivals/food-culture-grant-funding-for-food-festivals-2015-16/?lang=en

2&4 The following have been offered support below that requested including reason for variance, all the others have been offered support at the level requested:
                                                Grant Request         Grant Approved       Reason for variance

Hay Summer Festival –        £2,492                           £1,701                  50% of Eligible costs
Menai Seafood Festival –    £5,000                           £4,634                         “ “
Brecon Food Festival  –       £4,850                           £4,000                        “ “
Hay Winter Festival –          £2,292                           £1,701                          “ “
Abergavenny Food Fest –  £21,850                         £14,350                       “ “
Conwy Feast  –                    £25,000                        £15,255                        “ “

3&4 The following festivals were rejected, including reason for rejection:
Broneirion Festival – £4,919 – did not meet the basic criteria
Greenman Courtyard Event, London – £10,000 – event outside of Wales.
5. Included above.

I’m at a loss with wag food as I simply do not understand why this year they’ve put festivals into two tranches. Last year the maximum grant was £10k, this year the maximum grant is £25k, but why the increase when wag food have been telling me for the last ten years festivals must aim to be self-funding. Guess why I’m puzzled is what wag food mean by ‘aim’! No doubt this all makes civil service sense to wag, but it certainly doesn’t to me. I’m also puzzled as to why festivals think that getting a grant of £1,700 is worth the hassle with the red-tape and paper-work, plus the criteria that wag create.

Wag and wag food say Welsh food and drink is important to Wales but do let me know your views if you have time………