RSS
 

Posts Tagged ‘WAG Food’

Another Waste Of My Time

08 Jul

As Mike from Cwm Deri Vineyard was prepared to share his eviction from Narbeth – for update see post dated 17th June as Local Producers Don’t Get Priority At Funded Festivals – I thought you’d be interested in an update.

Both Mike and I have contacted one of his AMs and she is going to take his complaint forward, but was frnak from the outset, saying there was no likelihood that anything will chang efor Mike this year., which I understand. So my next plan of action was to ‘talk’ to wag food, although in theory I’m supposed to go through the press office. But I thought it worth a try and crafted a detailed email. I explained the back story on Mike and his long standing supprt for Narbeth. I queried the Narbeth committee’s reason to ‘vary the visitor experience’ as their justification for throwing Mike out and I suggested that variety could be achieved by the music, the street and childre’s entertainment that the event uses each year.

I still cannot accept that punters if they ARE surveyed, are saying although this is a yearly food festival, I still want the food stalls changed each year. If you bought some delicous cheese, jam, beer or wne last year wouldn’t you want to buy it again? Narbeth’s reasoning doesn’t make sense to me, but seemingly does to wag food. But in the interest of variety, Narbeth style, do you think the Devon fishcake man will be thrown out too?

I maintain as I have constantly done so, that wag food are not backing local professional producers, but instead is encouraging food miles. Which goes completely against the Welsh Government’s Policy. Wag food create their own Welsh food festival criteria, so perhaps ensuring the number of Welsh food and drink producers be raised to 90% and priority given first to local ‘professional’ producers. This would eliminate silly situations like this.

Narbeth cannot state that they are championing local producers when they have just thrown out Pembrokeshire’s local wine producer. 

The objectives of the Food Festival Grant scheme 2016 published by wag food state:

  • Improve Visitor Access to and awareness of Welsh Food and Drink.
  • Encourage Welsh hospitality businesses to source more local food and drink.
  • Increase the prevalence of Welsh Food and Drink on menus and retail offering.

I am sure some of you will have seen a company called Wavehill doing some food festival evaluations, which of course we/wag food have paid for. Here’s a snippet from one of their reports:

Wavehill 14/15 food festival evaluation

  • An average (mean) rating of 3.6 out of 4 illustrates a high degree of enjoyment across the surveyed festivals. Furthermore, almost two thirds of attendees felt certain their awareness of local food and produce had increased as a result of their attendance at the festival that day, whilst a further 27% felt it probably had.
  • In addition, the FD was keen on evaluating the following elements:
  • Would the festival continue without FD support (to what extent is the festival moving towards a model that is self-sustaining)?
  • Is the event considered to be an exemplar of the Promotion of Welsh Produce to visitors in and outside Wales?
  • The quality of the event.
  • The involvement of Food Tourism Providers – are they Championing Local Producers? 
  • The number of Food & Drink Producers, who these producers are, in addition to the numbers of Welsh Producers.

Confirmation that the festival organisers had used the Welsh Government financial contribution in the manner outlined in their application.

Then I can go back to the former Minister of Rural Affairs, Elin Jones:

From Food for Wales – Food from Wales 2010 – 2020

Food is a basic necessity for us all, as well as a key industry. It creates vital employment and is critical to our security and wellbeing. It is a source of robust health and a celebration of culture. Wales is rapidly gaining a credible, national and international reputation for its innovative food and drink and hospitality sector. Thanks to our producers, our unique geography, climate and farming practices, Wales can boast of a range of high quality foods, from our iconic Welsh lamb and beef to cheeses and Welsh seafood. The food and drink industry is important to the economy and the people of Wales; the UK Agri-Food sector contributes up to 7% (£79.4 billion) of UK Gross Value Added. Through careful informed planning and working together it is vital that we increase this and I have every confidence that we can build on our success achieved so far to ensure a thriving, developing industry in the years to come.

There are complex and cross cutting issues around food, such as making sure everyone continues to have access to the food they need, which requires an economically and environmentally sustainable industry capable of withstanding global pressures and meeting the challenges that climate change presents us with. Food issues are key to us all as consumers, throughout the industry, and as a Government. Reconnecting with food and how it’s produced is a fundamental message that reaches out to all those engaged in the future of food supply in Wales. This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. As Minister for Rural Affairs for the Welsh Assembly Government I am keen for Wales to do the best we can to ensure a sustainable food system which meets our economic and ecological priorities. To achieve this we need to reach out to

all parts of Government to ensure we work together to share agendas and make better connections.

The food chain accounts for 31% of greenhouse gas emissions within the EU (17% of total Welsh emissions), and we all have a part to play in addressing these issues. Working together, we can look to readdress these imbalances by looking to source food locally, eat seasonally, and reduce food miles; consequently reducing carbon emissions. We also need to look to reduce our food packaging which contributes to waste and landfill and increase the creation of bio diverse habitats for wildlife.

From the same source:

This Strategy sets the overall direction – it cannot deal in detail with every area of policy it will affect. This Strategy will however act as a common framework to inform our existing food action plans, such as those for horticulture, red meat, organic, dairy, local sourcing, food tourism, and fisheries, and act as a basis for a delivery plan to implement our aspirations. This overarching Strategy is for ten years, but delivery plans will be set over shorter timescales.

From the same source:

Principles

  • Local and locality branded foods from Wales should be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and more widely;

From the same source:

  1. Increasing knowledge about food in our communities will help to develop a stronger

food culture, which can stimulate the demand for good quality and locally produced food.

From the same source:

  1. The general principles of a low carbon diet are eating local, seasonal food, wasting less food, minimising energy used in cooking and storage, taking fewer trips to the supermarket, and ensuring that a balance is achieved on carbon intensive food such as red meat and dairy products.

From the same source:

Food and Tourism

Tourism provides an excellent example of an area of Government influence in which food can play a key role. Good quality food and food service can enhance the reputation of Wales as a leading sustainable

tourism destination. Provision of Welsh food at tourist outlets can promote economic development and boost environmental and cultural tourism. This approach can make for a tourist experience that is highly valued, encouraging the return of visitors to Wales.

The Food Tourism Action Plan encourages the use of food as a tool to increase the attractions of Welsh rural areas illustrated by the achievements of Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire, which were the first two winners of the Food Destination Awards under the True Taste scheme.

In addition, research by the Mid Wales Food and Land Trust in 2006 concluded that, of the visitors surveyed, 82% stated that provision of good locally produced food was a very important part of their holiday experience and they would pay up to 13% extra to experience it.

From the same source:

(From Food Tourism Action Plan, Welsh Assembly Government, 2009)

CHAPTER 7

Summary of the aspirations and direction of the Food Strategy

1.Local and locality branded foods from Wales will be developed and promoted to markets in Wales, the rest of the UK, and the world.

Well the first surprise was I did get a response some two weeks later, the second surprise, well no it wasn’t a surprise, I got no help at all. Despite a few emails going to and fro, I was told my comments will be discussed with Food Festival Organisers when they meet with wag food. So that was a surprise as I’d no idea food festival organisers were still having meetings, but in fairness why should wag food keep me in the loop on that one?

Then I was told to take my individual points to directly to Narberth Food Festival. Well that was useful – not!!! Why is Narbeth going to answer my questions when wag food, the Paymaster, can’t be bothered taking up Mike’s case on the grounds that each festival is responsible for organising their own exhibiting area and food producers. This to me is a cop out, if wag food are paying, then shouldn’t food festivals be adhering to wag food’s policies? Does this not run along joined up government writing?

Wag food, the department that we pay for to promote Welsh food and drink, gives us Food & Drink policies, stating what must happen to promote food and drink in Wales, but then does little to fulfil them. These policies are only wag words, without any action. I’m stunned that wag food are telling me to talk to Narbeth.

Mike believes his feedback form might be to blame for his eviction, as he stated it should be professional producers at a fesitival and not a stand buying from the Cash & Carry and re-packaging stock. When I asked wag food if they saw the feedback forms they said no – but each event has to maintian feedback as part of their Quality-Systems and to maintain or better their producer /visitor experience in the future. So this proves that if organisers cannot accept constructive criticism, then traders must only put pleasant comments on feedback forms to ensure they get an invite back. So someone please explain how will feedback forms maintain or better their producer/visitor experience? Well obviously they’ll be another waste of time but again another area which wag food have ignored. So the outcome is that Mike has had to find another event, which is not only more expensive to trade at, it’s not local to him so his food miles are massively increased, plus he’s to pay for a hotel too!

To wrap up this post, I wasn’t sure that wag food would help, so it’s as I stated at the start, this is just another waste of my time talking to or at a food department which will not listen. Of course I’m disappointed/furious with the outcome of this scenario. But on a rare positive note from this post, perhaps I should just be grateful to have got two responses, such as they were, more like whitewash to me!

You couldn’t make this up, you really couldn’t…………………………….

 

 
 

Local Producers Don’t Get Priority At Funded Festivals

17 Jun

I’m sorry to have to post again about this topic but it’s only by doing this that perhaps wag food and festival organisers will take notice and change things for the better.

So it’s time to put names to this latest problem which has been brought to my attention. I only do this when it has been agreed and I understand that many producers with issues at festivals are too scared to raise problems in many instances. The festival in question  is Narbeth food festival, a super festival which Ian and I have attended for many years. It’s a great festival vibrant, busy and with a good selection of Welsh food and drink producers. But then I was told that  Mike Caine from Cwm Deri Estate has been evicted from this year’s festival, I was cross. No, not cross, I was furious. Narbeth is his local festival; it’s literally down the road from him and he’s been attending it from its early days when it ran in the Queens Hall.

Mike is an advertiser in Welsh Country magazine and one of our loyal Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, the other bonus is he makes exceedingly great wine. We have always said we’ll work

Mike has written and explained his position and the Narbeth Committee have responded saying:

Our space is limited and each year we strive to vary the visitor experience by engaging with a number of new stallholders. Given the space limitations of the festival site and the need to have a wide variety of different products for sale this means that, inevitably, difficult decisions have to be made with some regular stallholders being disappointed.

Obviously space is limited, it generally is, but I simply don’t understand what the committee are saying. ‘Varying the visitor experience’, why does that relate to food stands and not to their music, street entertainment, kids entertainment or the many government funded Quango stands? If you were a regular holiday visitor to Narbeth festival and wanted to find your favourite cheese stall, beer stand or wine stand, wouldn’t you be seriously miffed if your much-loved stand had been thrown out by a committee vote? Well that’s if there was a vote. What I cannot understand is why a funded festival is not made to support local professional producers first and foremost. Last year I remember a stall selling sweets but they’d seemingly been to the cash and carry and repackaged them. How is that local produce? How could they be given a stand? Where they professional traders? No. As I understand it they both had full-time jobs and this was just for spare cash. I know this for a fact as Ian always ask new traders for business cards or flyers and of course this stand didn’t have anything at all but jars of sweets. I can also remember a stand, maybe the previous year, that just had paper plates with food on them making faces. Those types of stands cannot be more worthwhile than having a professional local producer take a stand.

PLease don’t think I ever underestimate the hard work that goes into putting on a food festival. There’s a huge number of people that give up their time for free, work long and hard to bring a great event into their area and get very little thanks. But what I want organisers and wag food to understand that this is what our professional traders do this for a living. They, like me, don’t get any guaranteed money in their bank at the end of the month unless we sell something. That scenario I’m sure must be hard to imagine for those in safe and secure jobs, but that doesn’t mean it should not be taken into account and treated as a priority. I’m talking professional producers not the ‘Pin-Money’ brigade that just want to earn some extra cash, which might not well be declared for tax purposes. Now Mike has to find another event to boost his potential income for September, which means he’ll be lucky IF he can find something and IF they’ll accept him at this late stage. He’ll end up travelling further which means his earnings will be reduced. However wag food are in words at least very keen on food miles.

Narbeth have told him he can re-apply next year. But can anyone reading this believe that’s a viable option for Mike? Are the committee next year are going to sit down and say ‘oh we threw this loyal trader out last year, but maybe in 2017 we’ll let him back in…….really?

Producers have to plan their events each year; they’ve to work out which events were worthwhile and how they can boost their income for the new year. Can organisers not appreciate how difficult this is and how stressful? Yet this is even more crucial when you have got staff relying on you for their wages, not to mention your own mortgage etc.

I’m gutted for Mike and I’m struggling to understand Narbeth’s thinking and their lack of loyalty. However this is just one example, as there are other festivals, including Abergavenny, that sometimes use the same excuse to throw professional producers out. The difference here is that Mike is OK for me to air his experience, but many others haven’t wanted me to do anything, just to be aware they can get thrown out on a whim. Plus the obvious fear producers might never get back in – even if they wanted to.

Mike has written to Narbeth and explained his position, but that’s proved pointless. Now I’m talking to his AM and also to wag food by email and will keep you posted if anything does happen. I will not stop working hard for Welsh food and drink but just wish it wasn’t such hard work and common sense was more commonly available! One option is to take to social media, but I’m not sure that’s the right way to go, but it would be a way of Mike telling his customers why he’ll not be at Narbeth this year and if he’s found a replacement event.

It’s pointless my wishing things would change with food festivals because nothing really ever does. Wag food are happy that we go around in circles and as they’ve the money to pay the piper as it were, this looks to continue.

 
 

Is There Really A £5k Grant Limit for Food Festivals?

11 May

I’m still trying to find out which food festivals are getting funding. As I asked the Welsh Government Press Office again yesterday, they told me that this year there is just one Tier of support  withing the Food Festivals Grant Scheme instead of three Tiers as was used last year.  The Press Office also said that there is a maximum grant of £5k per festival and apparently the total budget for this year is £160k. I’m told that details of the scheme for this year were sent directly to producers, including those who have previously had funding.

For regular readers I’m sure it goes without saying that yet again I’m perplexed with how wag food are allocating food festivals funding this year. If there’s £160k in this budget, when last year, according to my figures the budget was £137,571. So not only has this budget not been cut again this year, it’s actually been increased. In these tight times, how does a food budget get an increase? My other worry is being told that all festivals can apply for a maximum of £5k. That again to me makes no sense when last year that’s the amount Abergavenny Xmas Fair got, whilst the main Abergavenny festival was awarded £14,350 and Conwy food festival were awarded £15,255. Both Abergavenny and Conwy were running under Tier 3.  But with only Tier 1 running this year I can’t imagine these two festivals being very happy. Are there other sources open to these two larger festivals for funding, apart from the Major Events Unit   Budget?  So with an increased budget of £160k and a maximum of £5k, just want to know how many ifestivals are being run across Wales this year. Will some of this budget be spent elsewhere? If that’s the case where’s that likely to be?

Questions, questions, questions……if only a civil servant would give me the answers. I was at a food event last weekend and was asked numerous times what was wag food doing about food festivals. The message hasn’t got through to all our producers that I do not have a hot line to wag food, I actually wish my line to the Press Office was hotter than it is, but there we are! So my response is now a cheeky – how would I know? I’m simply a journalist and editor for Welsh Country magazine, a magazine that’s so supportive of Welsh food and drink, why would wag food think that telling me what’s happening would be a good idea? It’s obvious to me that it would be a good iddea but obviously in their world it isn’t. Much better that I keep pestering the Press Office so they can ask wag food and then come back to me, so I can go back to them. In my view it’s a waste of time but then I’m not a civil servant guaranteed getting paid each month.

This is a sorry situation we are in and yes, I still maintain communication is the key, it just looks like wag food has lost that key, if they ever had it………………………..

I shall of course post any further updates, but suggest no breath holding!

 
 

You Couldn’t Make this Up

18 Apr

Food Festival applications apparently were only sent out on 15th April.

After chatting to a few festival organisers I reluctantly posted about Food Festival funding on 5th April. After my chats I emailed the Welsh Press Office for a press release about food festival funding. I was told that press releases were not allowed to be issued during the election period. I then asked when this information would be released to be told they’d make sure Welsh Country magazine were told, which was really not helpful. I also suggested that if a press release can’t be issued, bearing in mind it should have been issued months ago, why can’t wag food tell each food festival what funding they have received and stop organsiers from stressing about funding and get on with organising their event. Still waiting for that to be answered. But I was shocked to be sent the following with plenty of attachments.

Sent: 15 April 2016 13:50

2016 – 2017 – Food Festival Application Form 

The application process is now open for this year’s 2016/17 Food Culture Grant Funding for Food Festivals.

Please Note:

Completed applications with supporting documents can be submitted at any time up to the deadline of the 14th July 2016.

Applications will be appraised on a rolling programme as they come in, we will aim to provide each application with an outcome within 14 working days of submission, dependent on the application being complete.

The maximum grant available will be £5,000 or 50% of eligible costs.

Please find attached the following documents

.           Streamlined Application Form

.           Scheme Guidance and Criteria – Annexes I & II

The following criteria will be used when assessing ALL applications:

1)         Does the project demonstrate collaboration and co-operation between Food and Drink and Tourism sector.

2)         Is the project part of a wider programme/strategy within the area/region?

3)         Does it meet one or more of the objectives to:

.           Improve Visitor Access to and awareness of Welsh Food and Drink

.           Encourage Welsh hospitality businesses to source more local food and         

.           drink.

Increase the prevalence of Welsh Food and Drink on menus and retail offering.

4)         Will the project be sustainable in future years? Is there evidence of longer term self sustainability?

5)         Does the project identify clear outputs/objectives?

Each application will be considered on its individual merit, and in light of available funding.

I never thought it possible that Welsh food festival funding could get worse, but I am horrified to say it has, who’d have believed that? I’m puzzled that the press office couldn’t explain to me what is actually going on with food festival funding. Then to learn last Friday 13th that the applications forms had only that day been sent out, well it just astounds me. Wales has food festivals running in May and June but wag food seem to think that this is ok to send aplications forms out in April. I don’t care how ‘quickly’ in wag speak these forms are turned around, it doesn’t take away the worry that has been with many organisers as they are simply left to wait. It appears wag food couldn’t care less about the additional pressure they put these people under.

As always I’ve no idea how wag food will work it this year as applications come in and how they divide the budget up. Is there another tranche of applications going to to the bigger festivals? Or is everyone liimted to £5k? I’m sure Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy food festivals will request more, but why should wag food tell anyone what is happening? For me it’s like working on the outside of the secret service.

If wag food can explain how they think this is acceptable, it might be worth listening too, should it ever happen…………………….but we all know it wont! Wag food are not able to share anything with us!

I still don’t understand why food festival funding can’t be sorted out earlier without putting additional pressure on our organsiers who are doing their best to support our Welsh food and drink industry.

 
 

Where’s This Year’s Food Festival Funding?

05 Apr

I was not going to post about food festival funding again, as since 2011 this has been a regular post and achieved nothing apart from highlighting wag foods lack of concern for the food festival organisers that work so hard for Welsh food and drink. Well that was my plan but after being asked constantly by food and drink producers and some organisers – this ongoing problem needs airing yet again.

However despite my best intnetions to get wag foo to recognise this is a serious problem, raising this issue doesn’t hit home with wag food. Them not knowing about food festival funding doesn’t lower their monthly pay packet, it doesn’t cause them any stress or worry and ‘should’ they attend any farmers’ markets, our Welsh food and drink producers will not know them, so no questions will be asked of them. Perhaps that explains wag foods’ apathy on this issue.

Over the last weeks I’ve attended Haverfordwest and Aberystwyth farmers’ markets and at both of those markets I was asked what was happening about food festivals, were festivals being funded this year as I’d not sent them a list of which festivals were being funded. So you see producers think it is down to me to send them a list of festivals that are being funded, it’s not wag food’s job to tell producers what’s happening regarding funding. I’m really not sure whether to be angry or sad as it seems to me our producers just don’t expect wag food to communicate to them – it’s still apprently down to me. It’s a pity  some of our producers haven’t grasped that wag food tell me nothing and the press office tell me very little either. Just because I publish Welsh Country magazine that covers the whole of Wales and focuses heavily on Welsh food and drink, why should wag food tell me what’s happening and keep me in the proverbial Welsh food and drink loop? Answers on a postcard on that one guys.

For those organisers running early in the year, it’s vital for them to know if they are getting funding and how much. I don’t think asking about food festival funding is unreasonable questions, but the problem is they are asking the wrong person. But in fairness I don’t know any food producer who is brave enough to ask wag food themselves? Makes me think of don’t disturb the sleeping giant! If I was dishing out food festival money, festivals would have been told what was happening at the end of last year. There has to be a way to plan ahead, even with budgets I cannot accept that wag food make no effort to do that. Wag food’s lack of concern and understanding for food festival organisers, is beyond belief. Without food festival organisers, we’d have no food festivals and they would not stand a hope of making the targets set for them by this government. So it’s way past time that wag food treated our organisers with some respect.

So feeling pushed into tackling this old problem once again, on 22nd March I emailed the wag press office as I’m now allowed to contact them. I was then told that they weren’t sure about timings on food festival funding, but they will make sure that Welsh Country will receive any press release ‘when/if it is issued’. I was also told that wag will be entering the pre-election period from early April and the press office will be unable to issue press releases during the run up to the National Assembly elections on May 5th.

On being told this I went back to the press office as they’d obviously not realised that if they can’t answer my question by return, I need to know when they can do so. But I was told once again that they can’t issue press releases during the pre-election period, perhaps that was necessary in case I hadn’t understood that the first time. My point remains that even if they can’t issue a press release until after the elections, why can’t wag food tell the organisers NOW how much funding they’ll get? I cannot believe that wag food haven’t got that information sorted yet, but as it’s wag food, maybe they haven’t. But seriously what’s so difficult about doing that? We have festivals running in May and June, it’s now April and organsiers don’t know if they are getting any funding. If festivals didn’t need funding, I doubt very much they’d bother jumping through wag food’s many hoops, but they’ve done their paperwork, it’s been completed and all they can do is wait and wait and wait………………………………………..

I was promised they’d find out some more information for me timing wise, but nothing through so far, despite a further reminder to the press office on 30/3.

How this system or lack of a system gets changed, I no longer know. I’ve always thought my views and comments about food festivals and their funding has been constructive and helpful, but wag food can’t agree as no changes have really been made. After five years of trying, perhaps the sensible option is to accept that I’ve been wasting my time and wag food are too stuck in a rut to imporve their system of funding. Wag’s solutions looks to be doing endless surveys through Wavehill, but that’s gone nowhere, just cost us more money and annoys producers.

For those of us that care about food festivals and in theory that should include wag food, letting organisers know about funding early on is vital. I believe we lost 2 good, early running festivals over the years in huge part because of this problem. I totally despair of this department’s failure to let festivals know whether they’ve got funding from wag or not. It is simply not acceptable. This department never seems to learn anything. Goodness knows for sure how many surveys wag food have paid for and how mnay times this issue of not knowing about funding has been raised, but nothing changes. Which makes me ask about surveys, why do them when wag food seem to ignore them?

When wag food have the time and inclination to reveal which festivals have been funded, I shall as always email the list to our Best Of Welsh & Border producers – as it will save wag food a job – sorry poor joke we know wag food don’t do that!

 

 
 

Research Into Farmers’ Markets FOI ATISN 10188

04 Mar

I attended two Farmers’ Markets in February and was asked by some producers why they were being contacted and asked questions about Farmers’ Markets. Our lovely Best of Welsh & Borders food and drink producers think I am kept in touch with what’s happening in wag food, but they should know better than that by now! Obviously I asked who was contacting them and was told each time they’d no idea. This is pathetic to hear. But they weren’t pleased at being pestered by phone to answer questions about Farmers’ Markets. Well I was puzzled too. Wag Food have told me in no uncertain terms that they are not responsible for Farmers’ Markets, markets are the Councils’ responsibility.

So my only option was to do yet another FOI. But for those of you wishing to check wag’s website yourself, wag have given this reference ATISN 10199 but also numbered it ATISN10188, sorry for the confusion, but I’m only asking the questions! The response is as follows:

Thank you for your request which I received on the 15th February 2016 about research into Farmers Markets.

A copy of the information I have decided to release is enclosed.

1. Which company has the Welsh Government authorised to undertake this telephone survey?

Wavehill.

2. Is this another evaluation on behalf of the work done by Fork2Fork?

No.

3. Or is it a separate survey authorised by the Welsh Government?

The research is separate to the evaluation done by Fork2Fork.

4. Why are the Welsh Government authorising such a survey when they are not responsible for Farmers’ Markets?

The Welsh Government has a Programme for Government Commitment to “Seek to diversify and strengthen the rural economy by the promotion of Farmers’ Markets, the pursuit of new markets, the growth of cooperative marketing arrangements and investment in new equipment”.

We have commissioned research to inform policy in this area.

5. Did the company have to tender for this work?

Yes.

6. How much is the successful company being paid for undertaking this survey and how many producers are thy obligated to contact and get a response from?

The value of the contract is £19830 including VAT.

The contractor was not obliged to undertake a survey or contact a set number of producers. To add value to the research the contractor has undertaken a survey to provide consumer input. 112 responded.

7. How many food and drink producers are being contacted?

381.

8. What questions are being asked?

See attached document below for the questions. If you want a pdf of the questions asked – shout and I’ll send you a copy.

9. A copy of these questions would be required.

See above questions.

10. What happens to the result of this survey and when will this survey be completed?

Welsh Government will consider the outcomes and feed into policy if appropriate. Completed by April 2016.

11.What are the objectives of this survey?

To support policy development.

Well I can only hope you found this more helpful than I did. All I can take from this is a further waste of £20k given to a company, who are so far in wag’s good books, to be awarded yet another tender and to 381 producers being pestered by them. Amazingly only 112 producers could be bothered to reply, less than a third, so was that really worth £20k?

Just let me remind you that Fork2Fork, FBA, have been paid, as far as we can ascertain, around £1 .3 million pounds, if not more, to look after farmers’ markets, farm shops and box schemes. If Fork2Fork have done the job they were extremely well paid to do, why is another survey needed? Bear in mind  Fork2Fork’s ‘work’ was also evaluated, so what is the point of all this? If wag food is short of cash couldn’t they have found some value-for-money in a different project? I guess wag food would never take into account of producers being pestered by another phone call but you cannot ignore the fact that in many instances, producers had no idea who they were talking to . So what impact has that phone call had? So in that situation, are producers likely to be honest and constructive to this ‘unknown’ person and therefore how can they be honest with them? I think too many producers have lost trust in wag food, that’;s sad to say, but that’s my understanding of it, so from that stance they aren’t likely to be open and make this mini survey of any value.

I’ve just skimmed through the questions producers have been asked – all 22 of them with six names being given as interviewers and I cannot see why Fork2Fork haven’t been asked for this information, which they should have. Question 2 is have you ever sold your goods at Farmers’ Markets in Wales? well if they haven’t why are Wavehill ringing them? Where have Wavehill selcted their  381 producers from?

A copy of the information I have decided to release is enclosed – well it will not surprise you to know that I’m also interested in the information this person is not deciding to release!!!!!

Welsh Government will consider the outcomes and feed into policy if appropriate. Well that’s interesting, after spending £20k, if the government think this survey is ‘appropriate’ it wil be fed into policy – otherwise  guess it will be filed somwhere, never to appear again – but it’s only£20k producers, not a lot of money in wag land.

 
 

How Much Funding Has Fork2Fork Had?

24 Feb

Questions that I am regularly asked are: What’s happening to farmers’ markets? Why isn’t more being done to support them? Why can’t Welsh Country back them?
Well the last question is easy to answer. Fork2Fork have been paid an enormous amount of money to focus on farmer’s markets, farm shops and box schemes. The total amount they’ve been paid is apparently a huge secret that wag will not reveal. We aren’t funded by wag to support markets or Welsh food and drink producers for that matter, but we back to the hilt those that are working with Welsh Country. As for the other questions, I decided I’d try again through Freedom Of Information Act. The answer I’ve been sent through today is shown in full – apart from if I’m not happy with my reply, I can complain – as follows:
ATISN 10133 – Funding for Folk2Folk
Silly typos there from the Welsh Government, what the civil servant should have typed was Fork2Fork!
Thank you for your request which I received on 1 February 2016. You asked for:
1. Has the Fork2Fork project been awarded further funding since the two payments totalling £898,497?
As part of additional funding allocations in June 2014, under the Supply Chain Efficiency funding stream, additional funding was allocated to the Fork2Fork project.
2. If further funding has been awarded to Fork2Fork, how they were allowed to obtain further funding on this project?
Additional funding was allocated to the Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme (SCES) and all existing and new project sponsors were invited to submit proposals for new projects or new activities that would add value to their current projects.
A further allocation of £7.2 million was committed to projects under SCES.
3. Who authorised any further payments?
Payments were authorised by a Welsh Government official on behalf of Welsh Ministers. I am withholding the name of the official under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act as they were not senior staff and were working in an administrative capacity. I describe my reasoning in Annex A
4. Why further funding was awarded?
Further funding was used to expand on previous capacity building amongst the Fork 2Folk community of interest by enhanced engagement and provision of business and marketing support.
5. If further funding was awarded to Fork2Fork that was over £25k, and if these were put out to tender by WAG or not?
Fork2Fork is a project that was approved under the Supply Chain Efficiencies Schemes which is part of the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013. The project sponsor is FBA Ltd. This is not a Welsh Government procured contract therefore any additional grant support is not subject to Welsh Government procurement procedures
6. Please list all payments made to Fork2Fork, dates awarded and for what purpose additional monies were given.
For question 6, you requested this information in January 2013 and it was withheld under S.43 of the FOIA – Commercial interests. As the information requested and situation has not changed, we ask that you see our response to request 6822. We are treating this as a repeat request under Section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act. Responses to FOIs are in the disclosure log on:
http://gov.wales/about/foi/responses/?lang=encan
7. I require all recorded information that relates to Fork2Fork.
Your question is not sufficiently clear for me to locate the information you want. If you wish to reformulate this request it will be treated as a new request for information. Further guidance on making requests can be found on:
http://gov.wales/about/foi/makerequest/?lang=encan
8. All payments made to them and why they were made.
For question 8, you requested this information in January 2013 and it was withheld under S.43 of the FOIA – Commercial interests. As the information requested and situation has not changed, we ask that you see our response to request 6822. We are treating this as a repeat request under Section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act. Responses to FOIs are in the disclosure log on:
http://gov.wales/about/foi/responses/?lang=en
Annex A
Data withheld under Section 40 of the FOIA.
Section 40 sets out an exemption from the right to know if the information requested is personal information protected by the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). Personal data is defined in Section 1(1) of the DPA as:
“personal data” means data which relates to a living individual who can be identified from those data; or from those data and other information which is in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller.
We have concluded that, in this instance, the name of the officials within the information requested amounts to personal data. Under Section 40(2) of the FOI Act, personal data is exempt from release if disclosure would breach one of the data protection principles. We consider the principle being most relevant in this instance as being the first.
The first data protection principle states:
Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless—
(a) at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and (b) in the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.
We consider that name of the official clearly falls within the description of personal data as defined by the DPA and that disclosure would breach the first data protection principle. The first data protection principle has two components:
1 Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and
2. Personal data shall not be processed unless at least one of the conditions in DPA schedule 2 is met
Guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (Personal information (section 40 and regulation 13) v 1.3) states (at p11):
The starting point is to consider whether it would be fair to the data subject to disclose their personal data. The key considerations in assessing this are set out in the section on Fairness below.
If disclosure would not be fair, then the information is exempt from disclosure.
This approach was endorsed by the Court of Appeal in the case of Deborah Clark v the Information Commissioner and East Hertfordshire District Council where it was held: “The first data protection principle entails a consideration of whether it would be fair to disclose the personal data in all the circumstances. The Commissioner determined that it would not be fair to disclose the requested information and thus the first data protection principle would be breached. There was no need in the present case therefore to consider whether any other Schedule 2 condition or conditions could be met because even if such conditions could be established, it would still not be possible to disclose the personal data without breaching the DPA” (paragraph 63). The Information Commissioner has issued guidance on whether release of names of officials in disclosed emails would be unfair, and thus in breach of the first principle of the DPA. The guidance states:
In assessing whether employees can have a reasonable expectation that their names will not be disclosed, key factors will include their level of seniority and responsibility and whether they have a public facing role where they represent the authority to the outside world. Where the officials in question are not senior staff, do not have a public facing role and where they are acting entirely in an administrative capacity, I have concluded that they have a reasonable expectation that their names will not be disclosed. It is my view, therefore, that disclosure of their names would breach the first data protection principle, and thus are exempt from release under section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Our view here in the office is this is as clear as Scotch mist, or maybe that should be Welsh Government mist. FBA were awarded this tender on a second round tender when the first tenders were apparently deemed not worthy. I have tried and tried to find out what is happening. I was told that this Supply Chain Efficiencies Scheme project was originally approved for two years but under the terms of the scheme projects can ask for extensions up to a final date of 30 June 2015. This project has been extended twice and the last extension was approved by the Scheme Manager on 10 October 2012.
The initial grant awarded was £799,736 and at the last extension the completion date was 31 March 2014 with a total grant award of £898,497. This comprised of (approximately) £55,000 for the second national conference that was delivered in 2012 and a further £43,761 for additional activity for the website, some further information circulation and an extension to the independent evaluation as the project will now run over a longer period.

Well despite my efforts, that’s as far as I have got before being blocked once again. I am convinced that this project has/is still being funded and I bet the cost is now heading well towards £1.4m, but proving any further figures, as you can see is impossible to do!
What Welsh food and drink producers will be furious about is FBA being paid £43,761 for website activity for 12 MONTHS, a website that of course was paid for by this project. Which idiot thinks any website is worthy of a payment of £3,700 a month for updating a website? Who is so out-of-touch with reality to agree this? I’ve been told I’m not allowed to know who made this decision but I can tell you, because I had a meeting with the civil servant heading SCES and some top civil servants from Cardiff, but the Head Honcho didn’t even check the Fork2Fork website stats, ‘because he didn’t need to – he was allowed to authorise this payment!’

To then be told we are not allowed to know how much FBA have been awarded because of ‘Commercial Interests’ is a joke. It has to be. Or is it only me that’s confused as to what is commercial interests when sack loads of cash are being thrown at a ‘project’ from Europe.

I am not satisfied to be told that: This is not a Welsh Government procured contract therefore any additional grant support is not subject to Welsh Government procurement procedures.
I view this as opting out, but typically Welsh Government. Basically wag are saying that this is nothing to do with them as it’s running under Supply Chain Efficiencies Schemes, part of the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013, but it was wag civil servants that awarded the tender – eventually – and then agreed further secret payments to this project, but it’s nothing to do with wag……………………….

I can only dream of dealing with a Government that is open and transparent in their actions. Why wag feel we have no right to know what FBA have been paid, and for what, for is beyond my comprehension. Whether this money comes from wag itself or from Europe, it’s still our money and I will always maintain the Welsh public have a right to know – it’s just a pity wag prefer to treat the Welsh public and journalists like mushrooms…………………………….

 
 

Wag’s ‘Review’ of FOI No. 9881

05 Jan

Just before the holiday wag sent to me their response to my complaint under the Freedom Of Information Act, Number 9881. It’s rather interesting that they have treated this as a complaint when in their initial response, dated and posted on welshfoodbites.co.uk on 23rd November, I was told if I was dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of my request, I could ask for an Internal Review.

So follows in full is how the Welsh Government has responded to my ‘complaint’:

Complaint in respect of FOI 9881 – Food Festival Evaluation 2015-16

I am writing to you, as Reviewing Officer, with regards to your email of 24th November expressing your dissatisfaction with the response you had received to the above FOI request. We have, as our procedures require us to do, treated this as a formal complaint.

I note that in ATISN 9881 you had requested:

• Which 6 [food] Festivals are being evaluated and why were these 6 selected?

• Why has the policy changed in that not all funded festivals are evaluated?

Following a review of the information I am content that the response issued is factually correct. It looks from the correspondence as if you may have confused the festival evaluation visits undertaken in 2015/16 with those carried out in 2014/15. In addition, I understand that you have already received, following an earlier information request, full details of the specification for the tender for the evaluation work quoted. As such, it does not appear that we hold any other information that would help answer the questions you raise.

In light of these points I have concluded that your complaint should not be upheld.

Now I must say this is hardly a surprise that my ‘complaint’ has not been upheld, it would have been a total shock if our version of the Welsh Secret Service had upheld my complaint.

My views and further questions on my initial response on FOI 9881 are posted for all to see, but there is no further clarification as to why the 6 festivals were chosen and I do dispute what wag terms ‘established event’ and geographical situation. Although I do feel that wag are working hard to confuse me I can assure wag that I am not at all confused about evaluation visits undertaken in 2015/16 and 2014/15. My questions are raised purely to find out what funding goes where and what Wavehill are doing for our money.
I am amazed though that wag cannot even admit that I am right and Wavehill were at Cardigan festival in August, even though Cardigan is not shown as one of their six evaluated festivals. They bwere there. I saw them so why can’t wag explain why they were there as Cardigan was not one of their six evalauted festivals.
The longer this goes on, the more obvious it is that wag and wag food in particular would prefer me not to ask questions. Well grow up guys, I’m a jounrnalist and asking questions is my job and it should be wag’s to answer them. Why they have to waste my time and taxpayers money using the Freedom Of Information Act, can only be descibed as pathetic. Welsh Country magazine has always been supportive of Welsh food and drink and that will never change. Sadly wag food fails to understand why Welsh Country is so passionate about Welsh food and drink, which is even more annoying when that is their job. Why wag food cannot work with us instead of treating us as the enemy is beyond my comprehension.

Government, wherever Government is, should be open, honest and transparent. That is something Wales purports to do, but sadly that is not my experience. As always Wag ignore the fact that they are spending our money and the Welsh public have a right to know where it goes and for what purpose.

 
 

Yet More Wavehill

08 Dec

Goodness knows when this Wavehill/food festival funding saga will end. I would hope when we got some answers, but obviously with wag food in control, that is not a given. My surprise is that Wavehill last week were ringing organisers of wag funded festivals and asking them in essence for their feedback. Well I’m not sure organisers are not too busy in December to talk to Wavehill for maybe an hour, but then what do I know? In previous years, I understood that organisers had to complete paperwork and send it in to wag, but the questions being asked by Wavehill, could they already have answered them? My thoughts lie with our organisers as many of them are volunteers, unlike those lucky people at Wavehill who do get paid. I also thought that organisers are asked some of these questions on their grant applications, so why duplicate them? It’s a wag criteria that festivals have to have 75% Welsh stands to qualify for funding so shouldn’t the organisers have to send in a detailed list of stand holders, stating which are Welsh, before they get paid by wag? I do wonder how many times organisers have been asked the same questions and how many of them feel why they are being asked questions because nothing really improves. But the penny has now dropped, perhaps Wavehill are simply justifying their wag fee and we are no doubt guilty of forgetting the boxes that wag are ticking.

Follows is what is sent through to them to give them ‘guidance’ before Wavehill make their call!

Evaluation of Food Festivals Supported by the Welsh Government
Discussion Guide – consultations

This document

First of all, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

This is a discussion guide for the interview we would like to undertake with you as part of the above evaluation. We would be grateful if you can find a few minutes to read through it in advance of the interview.

The guide includes some background information about the evaluation and also a list of questions that we would like to discuss. This discussion guide is however exactly that – a guide to the issues that we would like to cover during the interview. We would, of course, be happy to consider any other issues which you feel are relevant.

Some background

Wavehill have been commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake monitoring and an evaluation of food festivals supported by Welsh Government funding.

The final report of the evaluation will be produced in early 2016 and this interview is being undertaken as part of the fieldwork for that report.

We anticipate that the interview should take around 30-40 minutes depending of course on how much you have to contribute. As you can appreciate, we will be interviewing a wide range of people as part of the evaluation. Accordingly, some of the questions listed may not be applicable to you; we will of course focus on those questions which are relevant to you.

Any comments that you make will be confidential and the information you provide will only be used for the purposes of this evaluation. Comments that you make will not be attributed to you unless we have your explicit permission to do that. It is also important to note that the team undertaking the evaluation do not work for the Welsh Government or any of the organisations that are involved in the delivery or funding of this project. This is an independent evaluation.

Questions for discussion

1. As an introduction, can you please introduce your role as it relates to Welsh Food and Drink Festivals?

Project aspirations and strategic position
2. How would you describe the main underlying purpose of your festival?
3. How do you know if you’ve been successful in achieving this?
4. Do you have any other aims apart from this?

Delivery

5. How did you hear about the Welsh Government investment in food festivals this year i.e. the 2015 programme?
6. How did you go about applying for this funding? What timescale did you have to complete the application?
7. In your opinion, how do you think the application process could be improved?
8. What new elements/ideas/innovations have you tried at the Food Festival this year? How successful were they? (if festival has now taken place)
9. What methods and materials did you use to promote your event this year?

10. I’d like to discuss in detail questions relating to exhibitors, suppliers and staff at your festival:
a) Approximately, what proportion of exhibitors are promoting Welsh food and drink?
b) What proportion of exhibitors are based in Wales?
c) What proportion of Welsh exhibitors would you describe as local to you (live within same local authority)?
d) How were suppliers of operational elements procured for your event? Was this process effective?
e) As an estimate, what proportion of suppliers are local to you, i.e. live within same local authority?
f) How many paid staff (i.e. those not volunteering their time) were employed to organise this year’s festival?
g) What was the total cost of this employment?

Working together

11. Do you think Welsh food festivals could work together more on procurement? For example, this could include negotiating joint contracts with event supplies. If so, what would it take to make this happen?
12. Do you think Welsh food festivals could work together more to attract sponsors. For example, this could include developing overarching joint branding and having sponsors across multiple events. Is so, what would it take to make this happen?
13. Do you think Welsh food festivals could work together more on promoting events? For example, this could include having a joint website and promoting a directory of festivals.
14. Are there any other ways food festivals might benefit from working together?
15. Do you currently collaborate with any other food festival in any way?
16. Do you collaborate at a strategic level with any large food suppliers or retailers?
17. Do you collaborate at a strategic level with Visit Wales or any other tourist organisations?
18. What is the one thing Welsh Government could do to help food festivals and other strategic partners work together more?

Do you have anything to add on an issue we’ve discussed or would you like to raise an issue we have not discussed?

Thank you for your time

Need more information?

You can find more information about Wavehill on our website: www.wavehill.com. All our researchers work within the Market Research Society’s Code of Conduct (http://www.mrs.org.uk/standards). If you have any questions or queries about either the interview or the evaluation more generally, or if you have any feedback on the way the interview was undertaken please feel free to contact Oliver Allies (t: 01545 571711 e: oliver.allies@wavehill.com) or Mark Willis (t: 01545 277 913 e: mark.willis@wavehill.com) at Wavehill. Alternatively, you can contact Dilys Parker (t:0300 062 2203 ǀ e Dilys.Parker@Wales.GSI.Gov.UK
So Wavehill are telling organisers that they are undertaking monitoring and an evaluation of food festivals supported by Welsh Government funding. But in answering my FOI 9881 wag are telling me:

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.

So why are wag splitting hairs here? Wag tells me under a Freedom Of Information answer that they are not carrying out evaluation of individual festivals. However Wavehill are telling festival organisers that they have been commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake monitoring and an evaluation of food festivals supported by Welsh Government funding. How confusing this all is. How can Wavehill tell organisers that the team undertaking this evaluation do not work for the Welsh Government or any of the organisations that are involved in the delivery or funding of this project – so this is an independent evaluation! Really? How can Wavehill, who are being paid by the Welsh Government £35k COULD not be ‘working’ for them? Would they be doing this evaluation for wag if they hadn’t won this tender? Another question is would Wavehill be doing all this if wag weren’t paying them at all?

It’s such a shame that year after year wag food, in my opinion anyway, always makes funding of food festivals so complicated, so much work seems to be duplicated. I ask wag food questions – and I have had to ask because wag food find communication difficult – then they struggle to tell the truth. I think this is yet another wag food shambles and they need to seriously re think food festival funding if as they say Welsh food and drink is so important to Wales.

 
 

Wavehill Update

02 Dec

A food producer sent me the following email from Wavehill:

Just a quick email to note the purpose of our evaluation and why I contacted you earlier asking you to complete a 5-10 minute telephone interview about your experience of the Welsh Government funded food festivals this year and the economic impact of these festivals.

In short, Wavehill Ltd has been commissioned by the Welsh Government to monitor and evaluate the Food Festival Programme for the financial period April 2014 to March 2015. Wavehill are undertaking a range of tasks which will result in a final report outlining the use of Welsh Government funding and measuring its benefits to the Food and Drink sector in Wales. The final report will measure the impact of grant support as a whole and the effects on the sector should the support cease. The evaluation will also focus on the support provided by the Welsh Government and recommendations for the future in line with the Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry in Wales.

We would very much like to speak to you therefore if you are willing to support our research then feel free to note a suitable date/time next week for myself to call you.

Now this situation gets more strange by the day.

Firstly wag tell me in writing, in response to my FOI 9881 – Evaluation of Food Festivals 2015 – 2016.

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 6 festivals visited are for the purpose of visitor surveys.

Maybe Visit Wales should be paying for this visitor survey then, not wag food……..

Since I received that response I have been contacted by a producer who tells me that Wavehill rang her just last week asking her opinion of food festivals in 2015, despite the fact that this company is not trading this year! So what lists are Wavehill working from? Looks like 2014 to me, but why not 2015 lists as this is supposed to relate to Food Festivals 2015-2016?

Then this week another producer kindly sends me an email from Wavehill which I must share with you. The questions this company are asking are, why are Wavehill ringing them when they always fill in the required festivals feedback form? Second question is why are we paying Wavehill to do this ringng around job when this information is already with festival organisers and therefore wag food? Wavehill have told the producer they emailed that they don’t get the producers feedback forms, which to me is total rubbish. The producers fill in their feedback forms and the organisers collect them. As to what happens to them next, who knows? But surely Wavehill are capable of simply asking the festival organisers for copies of them, or wag should tell organisers to send copies through to Wavehill. Why do Wavehill and wag food have to create yet another problem and make this excercise so complicarted and so expensive. What right have Wavehill to waste producers’ time? Is it just because wag food/we, are paying them?

If wag and wag food are serious about growing Welsh Food & Drink then they certainly need to get the basics right and wasting producers time is not counted as a basic. But the feeling at the Winter Fair was that micro and small producers are still not on wag food’s radar – well must say I didn’t know wag food  had any radar or communications skills – but there we are – perahps I’ve just not spotted them yet…………