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Posts Tagged ‘WAG’

Freedom Of Information Number 10621

02 Jun

Freedom of Information questions are my only way of getting answers. On the 29th July 2016 I an FOI, a Freedom of Information question. I didn’t receive a full reply to all questions but was told by wag that I could apply for a ‘review’, which I did. The Welsh Government then replied to my request for a review which they turned into a ‘complaint’. Follow that if you can. The speed of which wag turns a review into a complaint is far quicker than my getting answers to my questions raised on 29/7!

Check out my post of 24th August for an update on this troublesome FOI. But here it is:

  1. Have all Welsh food festivals that applied for funding in 2016 and received £5k?
  2. If not, what did each festival receive?
  3. Did any festivals apply for funding and were refused?
  4. If so on what grounds were they refused?
  5. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  6. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?
  7. Can you clarify why wag are listed on Abergavenny’s website as a partner?
  8. Can you clarify why Conwy’s website states supported by wag with 4 wag logos? Are four logos mandatory? Or does it relate to the various wag sources they have taken funding from?
  9. Although the deadline for completed applications is the 14th July 2016 and requests were being approved within 2 weeks, there are still only nine festivals listed on Wag’s website can you inform me of the others that have been approved?
  10. As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160k, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?

This has been not only been annoying and time-consuming for me, but a total waste of tax payers’ money and I lay the blame for that firmly at wag’s door. I ask them to consider what they have achieved in this 10 month stand off? Unlike me, Wag like ICO are not spending their own money and for a purported ‘fair and open’ government, why can’t they just answer questions when asked? As a journalist I shouldn’t have to use FOI, but as I’m banned from asking the press office questions, I’ve not many options left! Despite my ‘complaint’ wag still hasn’t given me answers that I find acceptable to questions 5, 6 and 10. So my last option was to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO, always I must say, a pleasure to deal with. However it was only on 22/5/17 that I got my reply – 10 months later – as ICO had to keep going back to wag. Here’s their response:

As confirmed in my email of 21 March 2017, the focus of my investigation concerned whether the Welsh Government had complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA.

Section 1 – General right of access to information held

Section 1(1) of the FOIA is concerned with the general right of access to information and requires a public authority to confirm in writing whether it holds information of the description specified in the request. A public authority is only required to provide recorded information it holds and is not therefore required to create new information in order to respond to a request.

In cases where a dispute arises over whether any recorded information is held by a public authority, any investigation by the ICO must be mindful of the former Information Tribunal’s ruling in EA/2006/0072 (Bromley) that there can seldom be absolute certainty that information relevant to the request does not remain undiscovered somewhere within the public authority’s records.
Therefore, when considering whether a public authority does hold relevant information, the normal standard of proof to apply is the civil standard of the balance of probabilities. For clarity, the ICO is not expected to provide categorically whether or not the information is held, but to make a judgement based on the civil standard of the balance of probabilities as to the likelihood of whether the information is held.

Item 5

Item 5 of your request asked:

“From which budgets and other sources of WAG funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?

As you are aware, the Welsh Government informed you that it did not hold relevant information in respect of this item of your request stating that Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy had not requested or received funding for the period from January 2016 to the date of your request.

As part of my investigation of your complaint, I asked the Welsh Government to provide me with details and evidence of the search undertaken which led it to conclude that information is not held.

In response, the Welsh Government sent me screen prints of its ‘I Share’ database showing the search terms and results. The screen shots show that the Welsh Government’s searched individually for Cardiff, Conwy and Abergavenny and support the Welsh Government’s response that no applications for funding had been received/made to Cardiff, Abergavenny or Conwy.

I have therefore concluded that the Welsh Government complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA in terms of item 5 of your request.

Item 10

Item 10 of your request asked:

“As the budget for this year’s festivals is £160K, can you explain where the remainder of this budget will be allocated?”

The Welsh Government informed you that the budget had not yet been allocated and therefore concluded that it held no information.

However, part of my investigation pointed out that you were aware from previous responses and the Welsh Government’s website that £85,000 of the £160,000 had been allocated, that the deadline for applications for funding was 14 July 2016, and that applications for funding were being approved within two weeks of receipt.

I therefore asked the Welsh Government to confirm where the remaining £75,000 was being allocated, and it confirmed (as it has in its latest correspondence to you) that £75,000 was subsumed back into the Food, Tourism and Culture Budget.

Whilst the Welsh Government’s response in its internal review that the budget had not yet been allocated was not incorrect, in my view, if it had confirmed the situation regarding the remaining £75,000 to you at the time of your request, it would have complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA.

However, its failure to do so represents a breach of its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA. Additionally, the fact that this information was not communicated to you within the required 20 working day timescale, also represents a breach of section 10(1) of the FOIA.

As this information has now been provided, I have concluded that the Welsh Government has now (belatedly) complied with its obligations under section 1(1) of the FOIA.

Apart from the time and money which has really been wasted, I am just furious hy wag cannot answer financial questions. By the time I’m asking them the money has been given out by wag and spent. I cannot change that, all I want to know is where our money went. The further irony is I’m now expected to believe that Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy were not supported in any way by wag. Well I still find that exceptionally difficult to believe, made harder by the fact that both Abergavenny and Conwy had wag’s logo on their websites. It was so generous of both these festivals to credit wag with a logo presence when they’ve not had any funding at all from wag money pot!!! But if that makes sense to wag and to you, it certainly doesn’t to me. Best I dream on with that one……………………………

 

 

 

 
 

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!

 
 

What A Waste Of Time

07 Apr

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

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

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

The Welsh Government deemed my question was exempt under Section 29(1)(b) economic interests of the FOI. So I’m told – and not for the first time – that the Welsh Government does not believe it is in the wider public interest to prejudice the financial interests of the Welsh Government and their efforts to obtain value for money in future negotiations using the public purse. I have never heard such government rubbish. The Welsh government is spending money they’ve received from taxpayers, but we as taxpayers have no right to be told how much Conwy received. Why is it a secret? How can telling me in 2016 what Conwy got awarded in 2015 have anything to do with obtaining value for money in future negotiations using the public purse? When have any food festivals been able to ‘negotiate’ what funding they could get from MEU? I understood that Conwy would have had to tick and explain why this money was needed as they completed MEU paperwork, with no guarantee they’d get what they asked for. Negotiate? That is not true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

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…………

 
 

 Another Wag Game Of Smoke & Mirrors

23 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S.

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

Now who said give up?

 
 

Welsh Food Festival Calendar

29 Sep

The question is why hasn’t Wales got a calendar for festivals they are ‘willing’ to fund?
I was told, not directly of course, that a Food Festival Committee/s was being formed, but as there is still no festival calendar, you might well wonder if this committee did get of the ground. Well I think it has and my reasoning on this is as follows: If I can take you back to last year when all food festivals were told the maximum amount they could apply for was £10k as wag keep saying that food festivals need to be self-funding. £10k maximum was a bitter pill for some of the big festivals to swallow and I was told, though this has not been officially confirmed either, that Abergavenny festival actually had a meeting with the then Food Minister. I’ve also been told, though yet again, not officially, that Abergavenny Chair one of the Regional Committees.

So roll onto this year and low and behold the maximum festivals can apply for:
Tier 1 – Funding of up to £5,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 2 – Funding of up to £10,000 at 50% of eligible costs.
Tier 3 – Funding of up to £25,000 at 50% of eligible costs.

Perhaps it’s only me that’s confused. Maybe festivals are only ‘told’ by wag food that they have to attempt to be self-funding. But then last year Abergavenny did refuse me press tickets on the grounds that: This year we have undertaken a review of all the complimentary tickets we give out to various people and organisations. We have done this as part of our continued efforts to become financially self-sustainable. For this reason we are not able to offer you complimentary press passes this year.

Other press got complimentary tickets so that doesn’t ring true does it?

So mixed messages here, or maybe it’s just me not understanding civil service thinking. Anyway back to a festival calendar and to a topic that I’ve raised before but sadly no-one in power, i.e. wag food, accepts this is a problem. Which is proof, if proof were still needed, that wag food have no conception of the problems producers face. But this issue could easily be solved and without costing wag food any extra cash, just create a workable food festival calendar of festivals that they are funding.

This Saturday there are festivals at Brecon, Neath and Newport and all three funded by wag. Brecon are getting a pathetic £4k, but Neath and Newport don’t fare much better with £5k. I’m guessing all three asked for more, but wag said no. So we’ve three popular festivals, reasonably close to each other, all running the same weekend. My question is the same as it’s always been, why, oh why is this still happening? Micro producers have no choice but to select one festival, although medium – larger producers can often get a second team out. Obviously wag has nothing to do with festivals that aren’t funded, but that’s not the issue here, I’m talking purely funded festivals and I despair why wag can’t exert some control over the festivals that they do fund.

In the past I have challenged wag food about a festival calendar and was told that dates were nothing to do with wag, a comment I find ridiculous. Festivals are for producers, locals and visitors, but first and foremost festivals are for our Welsh food and drink producers, otherwise without their support you cannot hold a food festival. If wag food say to these three festivals they can apply for funding, but will not be offered funding unless dates are changed, that would solve this problem. It’s an obvious that producers need to be able to attend as many festivals as possible, but wag food are prepared to stand back and ignore this issue.  Brecon has been running on the same weekend for decades, so in my view that weekend is theirs and I’m just disappointed that Neath and Newport also decided to set up on the same weekend as Brecon. If these other two festivals were held in the norht there wouldn’t be the same problem, but so close – it is a nuisance. Neath have developed a very successful festival that now runs over 3 days. The Neath team have been clever and do a great job, but that only serves to further annoy the producers who are loyal to Brecon. Newport started after Neath, but again went for the same weekend. Newport is not one I’ve  attended, but can’t anyone else understand how annoyed producers are that some of them are missing out on Neath and Newport due to this clash of dates.

Sorting out a food festival calendar is hardly a tough job, but sadly it’s prove too tought for wag or perhaps they are simpy not interested enough to help producers on this one. I’m very disappointed that the Food Festival Committees have not tackled this problem, but clever them, they’ve at least got wag to pushed the funding up to a maximum of £25k this year for the larger events.

I do though wonder how many years I’ll be ranting on about the lack of a food festival calendar………

 
 

9626 – Micro & Small Food And Drink Businesses

05 Aug

Questions are often asked of me that I don’t know the answers to, hence a further FOI to wag. Follows are their answers in full:
1. What number of micro food and drink producers are there in Wales?
2. What number of small food and drink producers are there in Wales?
In response to question 1 & 2

In 2014 there were 335 food and drink local units in the micro size band in Wales and 105 small size band local units. Food and drink is defined by the following standard industrial classification codes 10.1 to 10.9 inclusive and 11.0.
The published report “The value of Welsh food and drink” details 520 units in the Welsh food and drink manufacturing and processing sector. The work delivered through this report was to identify robust sources of data which could be referred back to and updated over time with proven and consistent methodologies in terms of data collection.
‘Local units’ was decided as the measure for this report and refers in this definition to food business within the food manufacturing and processing sector. A local unit is an individual site (for example a factory or shop) associated with an enterprise. It can also be referred to as a workplace. So for this exercise it refers to an individual site or enterprise within the manufacturing or processing of food and drinks. The business has to derive its main income from this activity.

You also asked a question on how we communicate to food and drink producers in Wales.
The Welsh Government communicate bilingually in numerous ways, such as website (www.llyw.cymru / www.gov.wales) social media (facebook, twitter, linkedin, you tube, flickr) press notices.
The Welsh Government’s Food Division also communicates bilingually via website (www.llyw.cymru/bwydadiodcymru / www.gov.wales/foodanddrinkwales) social media (twitter – @bwydadiodcymru / @fooddrinkwales) press notices and through case studies.

Well, I’ll be interested in your take on these figures, thankfully our Food & Drink producer database is in a much healthier position than wags! That large difference between our two databases would be amusing if it wasn’t so serious.

As for how wag food communicate to food and drink producers, this seems to sum up what I’ve been saying for years – communication is the key. I’m not convinced wag’s uninteresting websites, which hardly encourage regular, if any visits and social media are the best ways to communicate. As most producers have websites and many have online shops, producers are rather good at answering emails, so why do wag food not send food and drink producers emails and eshots? Food and drink producers rightly complain how busy they are and they, unlike civil servants are not working 9.00 -5.00, five days a week. So despite the fact that some of them do now use social media – it is an extra job for them to do. So I still think wag food are not doing a good jobcommunicating with food and drink producers. The onus is on them to chase and search for news from wag food? I still cannot see that’s the correct way around. As for press notices, that has to be a joke that fails to raise even a smirk for me. I’ve never known a government department that’s as poor at communication as wag food. But after offering constructive criticism on their lack of communication, I might as well admit that after ten years I’ve got nowhere. Actually I think their communication is getting worse, and who would have thought that could happen? As I’ve said before you could never, ever, run a business like this.

Why do I have to waste my time using the Freedom Of Information Act to get information about food festivals? Information that used to be sent out to me automatically? I think that’s disgraceful. Just what is so secret about asking how much festivals have asked for in funding? What they been given and why many have been reduced? This is European money and details of spending should be easy to obtain and is most certainly in the public interest………….