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Posts Tagged ‘WAG FOOD press office’

Latest Food Festival Rumour

15 May

The latest rumour into our office today has come from a good source, but cannot be certain it’s true. Normally my course of action would be to talk to wag food directly but I’m not allowed to do that. I have to go to the press office and as have such a list of unanswered questions in with them I actually can’t be bothered to send through another one – sorry!

The rumour is that next year food festivals that apply for funding will be allocated for three years – 2015, 2016 and 2017. It’s one of many, many issue we’ve raised for far too many years, but maybe someone, somewhere has listened which could easily be a first! Of course I’ve no details about what happens to new festivals that crop up in that three year period or if festivals restricted to the same £10k limit. What wag’s criteria will be or how food festivals will be evaluated. It’s also a puzzle how wag food can plan and allocate money for three years hence, when once again this year we couldn’t get details of funded festivals as supposedly this budget hadn’t been approved. On the very outside of wag it just appears a case of wags left hand & right hand not knowing what they are doing, but there we are, we no longer expect changes for the better. How, in practice, some budgets are known three years ahead, is confusing, but as to how that works I’ll never find out.

If this rumour is true, please don’t ask me why wag food couldn’t be bothered to tell me of their latest three year plan. Let’s face it that would come under the banner of communication wouldn’t it? Perhaps, unbeknown to me, there’s a mass of Welsh media out there who are as passionate and interested in Welsh food as Welsh Country magazine is and they’ve decided to keep it a secret – again. I very much doubt other Welsh media works even 10% as hard as we do for Welsh food, but my view remains unchanged, wag food aren’t that bothered in promotion or marketing, otherwise they could communicate to me through their press office. Perhaps wag food are silly enough to think that I will not be interested in this news. Perhaps though they haven’t even given it a thought. But why not? Simple, because it doesn’t bother them one way or another that this will at least take some pressure off our food festival organisers and it will help our Welsh food and drink producers.

Wag food cannot talk to me by phone or email, but in the future should any wag food personnel ever give me one of their business cards I shall tear it up in front of them and then decide where to put it! Suggestions on a postcard please……….

Please don’t hold you breath for an update on this rumour. As it’s only supposedly coming into effect next year, guess it could be at least 12 months or more before wag food confirm or deny this rumour.

You sure couldn’t run a business like this – unless you were propped up with wag funding!!

Communication is the key, but that message still hasn’t got through to wag food.

 
 

Food Festival Funding For 2014

11 Apr

I’ve no idea how many times I’ve asked for this listing from the wag food press office, but having chased again on Wednesday, have today received the following response:

We’re aiming for June.

Well that’s useful isn’t it? Wag food are aiming for June, well wowee!!! But with their track record to date, do you know if their ‘aim’ is good or not? I’m sure it is not relevant to wag food that for those of us in the real world, June is halfway through the year.

On a serious level, I can only feel sorry for Welsh food festival organisers, especially those that are running early. I know how some of them are feeling about this situation, because they tell me. They can hardly have-a-go at wag food when they want funding from them can they?  I think this situation is disgraceful and totally unfair and it goes on year after year after year. Wag food don’t deserve the loyal band of organisers that they have. Many of them are volunteers and as much as I love food festivals, I have to ask, is it really worth it worth it for them?  Of course they are doing it for their communities, but the needless stress wag food put them under is beyond my comprehension.

But don’t forget that wag food say Welsh food and drink is important to them and Wales.

There surely is no doubt

But don’t forget that wag food say Welsh food and drink is important to them and to Wales!!

There surely is no doubt that you couldn’t run a business like this…………………………………

P.S  

I’ve now had the following revelation from the press office – apparently their response to me is correct, the list will be available in June – no date given of course, because that would come under being helpful. But as in previous years, food festivals organisers  will be told ahead of this.

I have never been told wag food when they’ll be informing the festival organisers, because again, that would come under the banner of wag food being helpful to me wouldn’t it? I’ve just spent a great deal of time, once again this year, trying to get some basic information, information that people are asking about. I didn’t realise when talking to organisers that I should have thought to ask them when they were told by wag of their funding – well silly me. But this year a couple of organisers  have told me they’ve been given different dates by wag food when they be notified about funding. So once again this food festival funding is as clear as mud. Who cares? Well not the press office and seemingly not wag food either – this is such a waste of everyone’s time.

I’m fed-up of saying that we are trying to help wag food, that message has not got through. In the big scheme of things, it really doesn’t concern our business when the food festival list comes out, because I’m not and would not run food festival. However it matters to our organisers and to our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers and we promise them all we’ll support them. Stupidly, I didn’t realise when making that promise, how difficult it would be with wag food’s lack of communication and being forced to go through the press office.

I’ve also been told, again by an organiser, that there is an unofficial copy of Wavehill’s 2013 food festival evaluation in circulation. However I’ve also been told by the press office that this report will not go on their website until end of April. Well if you’ll excuse my saying, it looks like there’s a ‘mole’ in wag food as well as in Welsh Country – but sadly this wag mole hasn’t bothered to send a copy to me. In fact I’ve not had information sent in brown envelopes for some time, though I’m not sure why.

I’ll say again you could NOT run a business like this……………………………

 

 

 

 

 
 

Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme

06 Mar

On 28th January I posted giving you the news that Fork2Fork had received additional funding for their project. Just to recap for you, Fork2Fork are allowed, under the Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme, SCES, to ask for an extension. So to translate that into simple language, FBA/Fork2Fork are allowed to go back to SCES and ask for extra cash. All that they are required to do is come up with a project of their own design and deliver it against aims and objectives that they have set themselves. Sounds easy-peasy from where I’m sat, or should I say easy extra money.

I’ve been told that FBA/Fork2Fork are in receipt of an additional £55k for the second national conference, which I’m told was  delivered in 2012, but I thought it took place at the Winter Fair in 2011. Could there possibly have been two conferences? Now how many of you attended and think £55k is a fair and realistic sum for fork out, sorry poor pun, for a conference in Wales. Then there was a further £43,761 for additional activity for the website, along with some further information circulation and an extension to the independent evaluation as the project will now run over a longer period.

In my quest to get wag to focus on value-for-money, my bone of contention with this is how FBA/Fork2Fork managed to persuade the SCES that a further £43,761 is worthwhile funding for a website which has diabolical rankings? Would anyone being of sound mind and not forking out – sorry can’t resist another pun – spending their own money, think this a sensible spend? Does the Welsh Government need a sharp reality check that value-for-money is vital?

To add some balance to this silly saga, I’m not the first person to raise the subject of Fork2Fork website rankings, but that person didn’t make much progress getting a sensible response either.

Figures can’t lie so I have just been onto Fork2Fork and checked their rankings through Alexa, which are: 6,665,342, welshfoodbites is: 338,306 and welshcountry is 328,504 as the lower figure means the higher ranking I think that is proof, if further proof were needed, which sites is working. Any guesses for working out which one is funded could claim a prize if one was offered!!!!

Having said that, I am totally surprised and furious that I’ve now had a second meeting to discuss SCES, cancelled by wag, both at the 11th hour. Proof that I’m not important with wag, I think that probably goes without saying doesn’t it? But I’m now being told to talk to the press office, yes guys, the press office that in the past has refused to answer any of my questions!!

So from an Freedom Of Information Act question sent through at the end of November, I’m no further forward getting my questions answered. A game of smoke and mirrors, having to jump through wag hoops, trudge through treacle, wasting more and more of my time,  stick any label on this that you wish, but it is not an acceptable situation and I’m far from happy.

 

 
 

Festival Criteria Is Very Shaky

28 Jun

The situation on festivals is shaky and that’s being polite. I have never had so much criticism about the way Wag have set out their criteria and then allowed some festivals to ignore it. As expected this year, festival funding has been slashed to £368,521.36 and only 31 festivals are being supported. Last year 57 festivals were supported with a budget of £529,125,70. With such budget slash, I think most people would have expected Wag to have applied just a little commonsense as to how they could give the taxpayer best-value–for-money by making best use of the funding they’ve been allocated. First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Indeed, it is estimated that the overall economic impact of Welsh food festivals on their host communities is annually as much as £20.3m. There is a positive knock-on effect on employment in rural areas too with around 1,125 jobs linked to food festivals”.

I’m unsure whether Mr Jones is saying these figures are from last year when he funded 57 events with nearly £530k and the economic impact of £20.3m. Well £20.3m is no mean figure, so why then with such a strong economic impact, has our festival budget been slashed so harshly that Wag is now only funding 31 festivals instead of 57. Isn’t that surely going to reduce the effect of the economic impact, not to mention the impact of 1,125 jobs? I wish my limited brain power could get to grips with political thinking.    

I’ve heard so many times from Wag’s higher management that they want food festivals to be self-supporting, so if that’s the case, why are the three largest festivals: Abergavenny, (£52k) Cardiff (£37,550) and Conwy (£41k), being given nearly £131k out of this year’s budget? All these three festivals applied for the same amount of money they received last year and got it – no budget cuts there – but why not? In 08/09, Abergavenny got £37,360, Cardiff £30k and Conwy £24,665, so Wag’s self-supporting theory, is obviously that, theory. Whilst in practice these three festivals have had increasing money thrown into their rather large pots. Any chance Wag that you can clarify your self-supporting theory? 

Wag’s criteria for this year, insists that festivals have ‘food as the core activity.’

An easy example of this was that the Smallholder was shown the red card by Wag, even though Steve Shearman had been asked years ago to run this event for them. But panic not, there will be a Food Hall at the RWAS or the Winter Fair, as Wag runs both these events and funds them out of a different budget. Please don’t ask me how much those two events cost as the only way I’d get a partial answer will be to send through a Freedom Of Information question again, but a partial answer doesn’t solve the problem. 

Crymch Food & Craft festival, which has run for years, has decided not to run this year because of the, ‘food as the core activity’. Even though their food and craft were held in two separate areas, they guessed wouldn’t fund it. However Llandysul, which as far as I’m aware has had a similar split of food and craft stalls, ran again this year and were funded by Wag £9k, a reduction of £500.00 on last year. Now how can this anomaly have occurred? Wag gave Abergavenny based Miller Research, the task of visiting all their funded festivals and reporting back to them. I’ve asked for a copy of this report as I know a producer has too, but despite the fact that the organisers had their copies months ago, I’m still waiting for mine. Does that mean my copy might be edited before I get it? So how did Wag make their decisions this year? As food was not the core activity in Llandysul in previous years, why were they funded again this year? What did the Miller Research report say about Llandysul and who made the final decision for it to be funded again?

I had a press release yesterday from Hay on Wye festival, which is excellent, because despite 31 festivals being funded I shall be lucky to get 10 press releases in total from them. If festivals don’t send out press releases, they cannot possibly get any publicity and if they don’t get publicity where do the visitors come from. Festival organisers have a duty to the producers to ensure that they do their utmost to generate publicity and get people through their gates. I’m fed-up of hearing from organisers that ‘they don’t have an advertising budget’ what is core accurate is that they haven’t allocated money to advertise their event, but instead spending money on expensive chefs and aren’t bothering to tell their traders what they are doing. Traders pay their money up front and in good faith and organisers should communicate with them their plans for their event. Anyway back to Hay press releases, in the first paragraph it said busy event and estimated 4,000 people there and in the second paragraph at least 5,000 people. Well guess you can take your choice but it does raise two issues, who counted all those people as I understand it’s a free event and where on earth in Hay did all those people manage to park their cars?            

You only have to read welshfoodbites to see what massive interest and concern there is about food festivals. Regular readers will know that Wag Food Press Office have since March, refused to answer any questions from me, in case I blog it and upset as they say they have no right of reply! Well I’ve had had to remind them that when Wag food were working with us in 2008 and 2009 there was no negative food news at all published in Welsh Country magazine. Yet behind the scenes, that was a different matter. No-one should under-estimate the amount of hard work that was going behind the scenes whilst my team tried to get some communication going between the food producers and Wag. The Press Office then told me not to talk to Wag officials directly, but to talk to them. When that system didn’t work too well, I decided to create welshfoodbites in July 2010. Initially the idea was to use it for questions I wasn’t getting answers to, but in effect it has provided a forum for all foodies to air their views and ask their questions.

As far as Welsh Country is concerned, Wag sadly has now had negative coverage. We were waiting and waiting for the list of food festivals which was promised, but again did not arrive so that was published. I have no intention at all of apologizing for doing this, in fact Wag should be very grateful I haven’t devoted pages of welshfoodbites in every issue of Welsh Country. My reason for not doing so is not to save their blushes, because in the world of Wag, nothing is ever wrong. Wag appear to work under the B.S.E. rule, Blame Someone Else. The only reason, so far that I’m holding back is that I feel I should try and paint a picture of positivity in our Welsh food world. The only worry for Wag now is my pot of paint is running very, very low ……………………..……..

 
 

Does Wales Know Where It’s Going, Or Even Where It’s Been?

17 Jun

The Retail Sales Index recently showed a 3.5% decrease in food sales in the month of May as compared to last year. The Retail Sales Index is a monthly inquiry into retail sales and this is  sample survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics on 5,000 businesses in Great Britain. It includes all large retailers and a representative sample of smaller businesses.

The quoted comment was “Predominantly food stores sales volumes decreased this month, with a decrease of 3.5 in May 2011 compared to May 2010. This follows last months brief respite from contraction. Within predominantly non-food stores, there was volume growth across all sectors apart from household goods stores which fell for a fourth consecutive month to 6.0 per cent. Non-store retailing again saw the largest volume growth between May 2010 and May 2011 with an increase of 19.0 per cent.”

On the other hand, the British Retail Consortium, which is generally taken as representative of the High Street Multiples including the supermarkets, say that “Food Sales slowed markedly after April’s strong growth” but is still 1.9% up on a weighted 3 month average compared to a year ago. 

So do we presume from this that smaller retailers are suffering more than the ‘big boys’?

But what does this mean to Wales? I tried in vain to fine any statistics about food sales in Wales, either year on year, month on month, multiple retailers compared to direct sales, but to no avail. But bear in mind that Wag’s Food Press Office still refuse to answer my questions so this was not an easy challenge!

Wales has had an Assembly for 10 years and food, as part of Rural Affairs, is a devolved area of government (but food has now been demoted in that it only justifies a Deputy Minister). Why, as a government don’t we have these figures published for all to scrutinise and evaluate and then allow us to adjust our businesses so that they move forward and grow?  

So much money is being put into food promotion, so would it not be a good idea to find out where we are so that we can measure what effect this money is having?

If a privately owned business sector put millions of pounds* into it as a project, would they not have an accurate financial figure from where to start, as well as a target to meet that could be accurately measured? Whilst of course, being constantly monitored and adjusted along the way?

Many of our Government ideas are good, but they appear to be spending millions of pounds on ticking boxes instead of ensuring that each process has a substantial benefit to the farmers, growers, producers and food retailers down the line. Surely this should be a basic business role.

Your comments and feedback are invaluable and can I say again that any comments left on welshfoodbites are anonymous and will stay so – the only person who will know, is me and I promise you it will remain that way.

* Millions of pounds is derived from the monies spent on Food projects from the RDP and True Taste, but again accurate spending is difficult if not impossible to find.

 
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Food Festival Request Via Freedom Of Information Act

06 May

I think in the my dim and distant past, that I won a Girl Guide badge for endurance, so  do you think the Welsh Assembly Government Food, (WAG),  might like to consider awarding me something similar whilst I continue to ask for a list of food festivals they are supporting this year? For those of you that aren’t up-to-date, the WAG Food press office promised to send me their list at end of March – I’m still waiting – although not patiently. The WAG Food press office have now taken the decision not to answer any of my questions – in case I blog them! I’m not sure how many times I need to explain to them that I’m only resorting to blogging because they are not giving me the information I ask for as a journalist.  I’m now waiting for an offical response from WAG Food before I decide what to do next.

But back to the food festival listing request. With another failure with WAG press office, my next option was the Freedom Of Information Act and I submitted two food festival questions to them on 14th April. On the 4th May, I got an acknowledgement from WAG Food saying they had received my request on 15th April and that I could expect a reply by 17th May…………………………..

Well I shall look forward to that, but can WAG really believe they are serving the public with this sort of sloppy, laid-back service? I do not believe for an instant that this information isn’t available, as a food festival organiser has told me they should get to hear today, 6th May, on how much funding they will receive. So if that information is correct,  and it is because this festival organiser has just rung and told me how much they are getting. So why do I have to wait until the 17th May? Are WAG Food, like their press office too busy to respond to me any quicker than this, or is it that Welsh Country doesn’t matter?  

  

 

 
 

Our Rankings Are Still Rising – Thank You!

14 Apr

On 15th March I told you that welshfoodbites was ranked at 409,087; truetaste.tv was 1,919,717 whilst walesthetruetaste was 1,582,454. Well on 14th April welshfoodbites is ranked at 288,946 and truetaste.tv at 1,420, 705.  (Ranking source Alexa taken over a 3 month period)

So my thanks once again for your support on welshfoodbites. Ok, it is a lot of extra work for me, but it does prove we are doing something right. I’m not sure whether the Welsh Assembly Government, WAG, will get the message, maybe we’d best not hold our breath! 

Walesthetruetaste site has not been available since about 4th April, instead you’re re-directed to WAG’s site, I’m guessing this is whilst they revamp it. This site was initially going out to tender, but WAG decided to take this job in-house, in theory to save money, but could easily be to safe-guard some Civil Servant jobs. There’s no point in my asking more questions about this site as the WAG Food Press Office have refused to answer any of my questions.  

I’m not sure why any ‘expert’ computer boffin’ would take a site down whilst they re-jigged it, that doesn’t make much sense and can only continue to hit their rankings, and certainly doesn’t help the food industry.

 
 

Pwllheli Food Festival Goes Ahead

30 Mar

First call in this Wednesday morning was – yes, you’ve guessed, another food festival query. This time the caller had heard a rumour that Pwllheli festival is not going ahead this year, although it’s on a north Wales website stating the date as 28/29th May. I’ve sent out a few emails to get a confirmation or get a denial, but not yet got any responses. I’ve also emailed Wag Food Press Office, but no response as yet.

UPDATE -This festival does go ahead.  Thankfully the Festival organiser Mike Parry, rang in today – Thursday. I’d emailed him along with many others to ask whether this rumour was correct. It’s not and Pwllheli festival is taking place. I’m still waiting for a reply from the WAG Press Office………………………but maybe they’re too busy to reply.  

But we wouldn’t be in this situation of not knowing,  if WAG had given us a list as they’d promised.

 
 

Where Is WAG’s Food Festival Listing?

29 Mar

The Welsh Assembly Government, (WAG) Food Press Office promised me a listing of the festivals they were supporting this year around the end of March. On 28th March I’d not received the listing, so I asked again. To then be informed that:

‘food festivals, organisers will be told direct and WAG will not be making any announcements because we will be in the pre-election period. Further information about the process is available on the True Taste website’.

I understood that the pre-election period doesn’t start until 1st April, but on checking with Cardiff I was told offical closure date is Wednesday 30th March. The Press Office had already promised me this information when we all knew the date of the election, so why can’t they release this promised information to me? I went back to the Press Office with these questions, but was informed I wouldn’t get any further answers because:

‘The press office is not prepared to get involved in a lengthy discussion which you will inevitably then blog’.

Well that wasn’t helpful was it? 

Food festivals and what is happening with them this year, has been the most talked-about topic. From phone calls into our office, emails and face-to-face chats when we are at a food event, it has been constant. You can see for yourself how much discussion the posts about food festivals have generated on welshfoodbites.  

I’m still getting Press Releases from various departments in the Welsh Assembly Government, (WAG), so it appears to me that WAG Food either have the luxury of making their own decisions, or simply don’t want our producers and readers to know what is happening with food festivals this year. What do you think?

 
 

Information Is Not In The Public Domain – But Why Not?

17 Feb

In the past few months I have been fobbed off twice with the – not in the public domain – response from WAG. But have not been informed as to why the information I have asked for isn’t in the public domain. Who makes the decision to keep it secret?

On the 8/10 I asked WAG for an individual listing of the amounts given to food festivals over 08/09 -10/11 under the Rural Development Plan Supply Chain Efficiency Programme. There was no response so I chased again and on 18/10/10 was told: ‘the totals are in the public domain, but not individual amounts’. My question was then forwarded to the Press Office and I waited until 8/11/10 to be told: ‘We are not in a position to release individual amounts awarded to each festival’.     

With no explanation I was obviously not happy. But some time ago I’d had a helpful meeting with Assembly Member Nick Bourne at The Cliffs, Gwbert, Cardigan, and so decided on 15/11/10 to ask for his help. Well Nick didn’t hang around and put through a Written Assembly Question on 24/11/10 to Rural Minister Elin Jones. Thankfully we didn’t hold our breath, but eventually did get the full individual listing through from Elin Jones, on 1st February 2011, some four months later. Patience is a virtue but I must also say that it makes interesting reading but didn’t follow what WAG had told me that food festivals must aim for self-funding, when the festivals generally got their funding increased over this three year period. In fact a couple of them got increases of £14k – £16k!!!

Regular visitors will be aware of the Food Festival Organisers meeting held on 8th February. The organisers were to be told about the new criteria being developed for food festival support and the future allocation of funding for them. I wanted to include an update in our M/April issue and asked for this information giving them a deadline, as they’d asked for, of 11/2 at 4.00pm.          

WAG Press Office responses:

11/2/11 17.20

‘Sorry to have missed your deadline, it has been a busy day here and I have been working to get line to you. I will do what I can to get something soon’.

(Well whatever she was ‘working’ on for me hasn’t arrived, but are there any busy producers or editors out there? Another question for them is what does a deadline mean in their world? In my magazine world if you can’t hit a deadline the onus is on you to say so. Their failure to supply what I needed meant that I did not have their updated information to give to my readers in our M/April issue. WAG seem unconcerned that my readers and our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers have been asking us what is going on with festivals this year. We certainly don’t need any more uncertainty than we already have in the food industry. We haven’t got the security of a regular salary in the bank at the end of each month like some ………        

Friday 11/2 16.03

From a Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson:
“At a recent meeting, festival organisers were consulted on this year’s grant application process and the results of research into food festivals. More information for festival organisers will be made available directly to them on Monday. ”

Tuesday 15/2 14.17pm  

In response to your latest enquiry for the notes of the Food Festival organisers’ meeting last week, we would not release this information as it is not in the public domain.  May I suggest if you still want the notes that you contact the Assembly’s Freedom of Information Office at the following email address freedomofinformation@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Well there we are again – ‘not in the public domain’ – but no explanation why not? These people are spending our money but apparently you and I are not allowed to know how it is spent. I’d be interested to know what you think about this latest run around from WAG……………………….