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Posts Tagged ‘Welsh Government’

Update Food Festival Funding – FOI 10621

24 Aug

I posted about this Freedom Of Information Number 10621 on 19th August and was, let me say perturbed that wag food were unable to answer all my questions about food festival funding for this year.

To save you scrolling back, the questions that wag food couldn’t/wouldn’t answer are as follows:

  1. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  2. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding from other than the food festival budget?

 5 & 6. We do not hold any information regarding this point.

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

We do not hold any information regarding this point.

In their reply wag food told me that if I wasn’t satisfied with the response offered, I could go back to them and they would then do an official review. Well dear reader I have done just that and yesterday received acknowledgement from wag food under the subject banner of a complaint! Well as far as I’m concerned wag food can call it what they wish, but to make life easier they could simply answer my questions at the first time of my asking. I’ve no wish to have to go back to wag food for a review or as in their view my complaint, all I require is my questions answered under an FOI. But now, and hardly for the first time, I’ve to chase wag again for answers to an FOI. Wag are well aware that if I’m not satisfied with their review/complaint then I am allowed to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office and they will investigate on my behalf.

Welsh Country magazine has backed and supported Welsh food and drink for over a decade. We promise our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers that we’ll pass on any relevant press releases, not that we get many through and also any foodie news to them. If they have any issues we’ll do our best to help, bearing in mind we’ve often to go to wag food to get any help………….

But that’s the system in place that I’m obliged to follow. Yet wouldn’t it be easier, quicker and cheaper for both parties if wag food would simply answer questions asked of them? How can wag and wag food  constantly forget that this is tax payers’ money they are spending?

 
 

Not Directly A Food Issue But………..

22 Aug

I’m aware of food and drink business, as we have at Welsh Country magazine, used Jobs Growth Wales.

So I’m grateful, but very annoyed to be informed today that the Labour Government has secretly cut its own job creation scheme. Jobs Growth Wales used to offer a 100% subsidy for firms to employ people aged between 16 – 24, but ministers have quietly slashed that subsidy to 50%, but without informing Assembly Members or the public.

Obviously I’m not the only one puzzled that we somehow, despite our elected Welsh Assembly Members, it feels more like we are living in a dictatorship. Shadow Secretary for the Economy, Russell George, said:

“Frankly, it’s appalling that a decision of this size can be implemented without having the courtesy to inform the public, or elected members. This is a profound change to a flagship scheme, which will undoubtedly affect take-up, and which has only come to light because a business has tipped off the media. Clearly we need to see stronger checks and balances placed on the Welsh Government. It’s not uncommon for Welsh Labour to sneak big announcements out via written statements, but this takes intransigence to new levels. It also highlights the hypocrisy at the core of their spin machine.

One minute the economy is in grave danger because of Brexit, now we’re told a 50% cut to their flagship job creation scheme is necessary because firms are doing too well. It makes no sense and I will be writing to the minister to seek clarity over the future of the scheme, and the budgetary implications of this dramatic cut to support.”

I’m puzzled by the government’s comments as our experience in the Welsh food and drink industry is that companies are not all doing well – let alone too well. To read this makes me cross when a £10k pay INCREASE for Assembly Members also basically went under the radar in fact I’m not sure that many  of the public are aware that Members got such an increase on top of their already ‘reasonable’ salary.

The problems with many governments is their ability to send out mix messages, should they send out any messages at all. Our economy is supposedly in grave danger from Brexit so our government’s idea is not to discuss it in the Senedd, but to go ahead and cut their own job creation scheme by 50%. You really couldn’t make this up!

 
 

Freedom Of Information Request 10621

19 Aug

I’m going around in ever decreasing circles trying to obtain what I think is basic information about food festival funding. I cannot understand why getting questions answered from wag food is so difficult nowadays. I thought this FOI would end the festival funding fiasco, but as all my questions have not been answered, it obviously isn’t. I now have to go back to wag and ask for a review and only then if my questions aren’t answered can I then go to the Information  Commissioner’s Office. Well it wont be the first time I’ve had to trudge that pathway to the ICO, but wag food seem happy to waste more time or as I see it, playing games. I’m not sure who these games benefit, but it certainly isn’t me! I’m totally puzzled as to why can’t tell me they don’t know where Abergavenny, Cardiff and Conwy are getting their government funding from?

Follows are my questions and wag’s answers, well some answers. Their response is shown in full.

 Thank you for your request which I received on 29th July 2016.  You asked for:

  1. Details of all food festivals that applied for funding in 2016 and received £5k.
  1. If not, what did each festival receive?

 

1 & 2 Details of Welsh Government funded Food Festivals are published at: https@//businesswales.gov.wales/foodanddrink/food-tourism. 

  1. Did any festivals apply for funding and were refused?
  2. If so on what grounds were they refused?

        

  3 & 4 No.

  1. From which budgets or other sources of wag funding have Abergavenny, Conwy and Cardiff applied for and received funding for their food festivals?
  2. What criteria do these festivals have to meet before they can apply for funding  from other than the food festival budget?

 

5 & 6 We do not hold any information regarding this point.

  1. Can you clarify why wag are listed on Abergavenny’s website as a partner?
  2. 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?

 

7 & 8 Historically these events have received support via Welsh Government and/or EU funding programmes.

      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?

 

As question 1 above. 

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

 

We do not hold any information regarding this point.

 

If you are dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of your request, you can ask for an internal review within 40 working days of the date of this response.  Requests for an internal review should be addressed to the Welsh Government’s Freedom of Information Officer at:

Information Rights Unit, Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3NQ

or Email: FreedomOfInformationOfficer@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Please remember to quote the ATISN 9881 reference number.   (THIS IS AN INCORRECT NO. KR) Number

You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner.  The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:  Information Commissioner’s Office,

Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

However, please note that the Commissioner will not normally investigate a complaint until it has been through our own internal review.

 
 

Still Waiting For The 2nd Lot Of Festival Funding

04 Aug

I’m finding life hard work trying to get information from the Welsh Food department. Please don’t ask me why, all I’m trying to do is my job, ask questions, get answers and not to be pushed around in circles which ultimately creates more work for everyone. It seems to me that wasting time is easier when you get paid at the end of each month, regardless of whether you’ve done a good job or a bad job.

At the moment I’m chasing to find out which festivals have been funding by wag food in the second batch. The closing date for this second tranche was 14th July and I was told these applications would be dealt within two weeks. Well dear Reader, that is a wag ‘two weeks’ because as on 3rd August there is nothing about the second lot on wag’s website. As far as I’m aware, wag food haven’t sent out a press releasebut I’m not sure. I was promised by wag that I was on their press mailing list, but for some reason, known only to them of course, I didn’t get the first food festival press release. So just in case that had happened again…….. I went on the wag’s website again, but there’s still nothing posted.

I’ve also asked the press office how Abergavenny food festival, Conwy food festival and Cardiff food festival are being funded this year. But I have been told again that ‘I’d agreed’ that I’d not ask them questions for welshfoodbites. Well that’s not  true.  I was told by the Welsh Government press office that they wouldn’t answer any questions for  a blog and that’s what welshfoodbites is. But that’s not my ‘agreeing’ to it when there wasn’t a choice offered to me. My other point is that any Welsh food & drink information that I think is relevant, I post on welshfoodbites, but also email it around our Best Of Welsh & Borders, (BOW) producers. I’m communicating with our producers, which can only be a good thing surely? However it seems that wag think our BOW producers are not important either.

I was told the Welsh Government is being transparent in it’s dealings, well what does that mean? Is it more wag words and no actions? Or is it just lip service to us, wag telling us what they think we want to hear? It just feels like it’s a further dig at Welsh Country and I can’t see why when we are trying to promote Welsh food and drink as we are promoting our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, as we promote any Welsh markets and Welsh food festivals that want to work with Welsh Country magazine. What is the problem with that? I simply don’t understand it.

But if I can’t talk to the press office I can use Freedom Of Information (FOI), so I can get questions answered, well that’s the theory anyway but I’ve met problems there too over the years. Then I can put those answers on welshfoodbites. So why can’t wag save time and money and simply answer my questions? That makse sense to me but sadly doesn’t  to wag.

Well as I can’t get that information on the three big ones from the press office of wag’s website, then my only other option is to send through a Freedom Of Information question which was done on 29th July. Today I still wait for an acknowledgment……………………………….

 
 

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.

 
 

Who Are Welsh Food Festivals For?

10 Jun

Please don’t think this is a silly question, it’s not it’s a serious one. Festivals are firstly for food and drink producers and that must be the priority because without their support we literally don’t have a food festival do we? Then Visit Wales will say our festivals are to attract our visitors. That I agree with, just wish Visit Wales would help festivals more on that front. Smaller festivals will also say it’s to bring their community together whilst still encouraging visitors too.

Hopefully we are agreed on those points, but another one is encouraging locals to buy their produce locally, using our wealth of artisan producers. Of course we have farmers’ markets that locals use, but in fairness they are very much a mixed bunch. Some are brilliant with local producers selling a wide range of locally sourced and hand-made products. Other markets, well lets just say they need improving, but to do that they also need the backing of councils as well as the support of local people. Now as I keep mentioning local, I have in my head food miles. I love using markets and festivals because I know that ‘most,’ but not all producers, are from that local area. I refuse to buy fishcakes from the south coast when I know how tough a time our local fishermen are having, likewise I will not buy garlic from the Isle of Wight when garlic is a product that can be grown here in Wales.

But my reason for this post is being told each year of food festival organisers who are refusing professional local producers stands at their events. Often its producers that have supported those festivals not just for years, but for decades, then to find their loyalty is rewarded by being thrown out. I don’t understand it. There are a number of festivals still playing this sad game, but best I not name them in case other events, like Abergavenny food festival, refuse me press tickets. I’m only raising these issues again because it is time these things changed AND, if producers tackled organisers directly, even if they’re polite, chances are they’ll never get back into that festival again.

Organisers are often vague when they reject a stand, so could it be true that they are full, but then we don’t regulars, especially locals get back in or is it simply down to a clash of personalities? Perhaps organisers forget that our professional food producers are doing this to earn a living, earning at festivals let’s them feed their kids and pay their rent or mortgage. Organisers tossing them out of an event they’ve planned and budgeted for at the start of the year, means they’ll have to try and find an alternative event for that weekend. An event could be 20, 30, 40, or 50 miles away, which just isn’t green?

My other whinge is that some organisers are giving stands to producers that I’ve dubbed, ‘Pin Money Producers’. These are people who already work a full time job, but apply and get stands at weekends to earn some extra cash, which I guess is building the Welsh black market. Ian and I often acquire flyers and business cards for traders we’ve not seen before, but usually these are the ones that never have them! If they’re not busy we’ll ask them about their business, which is usually when we label them ‘Pin Money Producers’. These are not businesses, they are not professional traders and no way should they be allowed to trade at a Welsh Government funded event. Some of these producers are actually buying from the cash and carry and re-packaging the contents of their purchases. How can tricks and deceptions like this showcase the best of Welsh food and drink which is what our visitors are expecting to see, taste and purchase?

Please don’t think I’m just attacking organisers, I’m not. I appreciate their skills in bringing a food festival together. I’ve been visiting festivals for over ten years and count many organisers that I see and speak to regularly as friends, they’re so easy to talk too and they do listen. It’s a tough job running a festival and I appreciate wag food offer very little help to these hard working people. Either they are too busy to do so, or they’ve other more important priorities. I understand that if someone new applies for a stand, it takes a lot of effort to work out if they are a genuine business or not, plus I fully accept it’s no good asking wag food if they have heard of them to help you make a decision. I wish there was an easier way to sort this professional versus ‘Pin Money Producers’ but is raising these instances with the HMRC the only way left to stop them?

I think I can sum up in saying we’ve still not got joined up writing on food festivals and my concern is will we ever achieve that?

 
 

Is Food & Drink Still Important To Wales?

20 May

I’m asking this question after looking at the Welsh First Minister’s new cabinet. We have some Minister posts that seem to be upgraded to  Cabinet Secretaries and these include: Economy, Health, Finance, Education, Communities and Children, and Environment and Rural Affairs. Then there are Junior Ministers for Skills & Science, Lifelong Learning and the Welsh Language and Social Services and Public Health.

The Welsh Government state that they have an Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020 which has an ambitions target to achieve growth for the sector of 30% by 2020. In light of these targets research is being undertaken to investigate how individual sub sectors which contribute to the wider food and drink economy are performing. From this an industry baseline will be developed and used to monitor trends and track changes in the sectors going forward. This will yield a greater understanding of how specific sub sectors in the Welsh food and drink sector are growing and performing.  

Some people believe the Government’s statement …..but many wonder how wag will achieve it. It appears that Welsh food and drink isn’t worthy of its own Minister, let alone a Cabinet Secretary but once again Welsh food and drink is still being lumped alongside agriculture & fisheries in Environment and Rural Affairs. To me it seems a huge portfolio to encompass food and drink as well and as always the danger is food and drink will not get the attention it deserves which makes the target of 30% growth a tough target to get.
The new government is as follows:

Carwyn Jones – First Minister
Ken Skates – Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
Vaughan Gething – Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
Mark Drakeford – Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
Kirsty Williams – Cabinet Secretary for Education
Lesley Griffiths – Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Carl Sargeant – Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
Jane Hutt – Leader of the House and Chief Whip
Julie James – Minister for Skills and Science
Alun Davies – Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
Rebecca Evans – Minister for Social Services and Public Health

Yesterday, Ian and I met some tourists that live in the home counties. The couple are regular visitors to Wales and also to Cornwall where their son and his family live. Their comments where interesting as they were complaining they couldn’t get fresh fish & seafood in Wales. They can get fresh fish & seafood in Cornwall so easily, and of course there are there endless fish restaurants, but Wales is failing in this are. Doing our PR for Welsh food and drink we gave them a copy of Welsh Country magazine and highlighted a couple of excellent companies: Cardigan Bay Fish & Solva Seafood. But as Wales is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides, why can’t Wales have fresh seafood available in every seaside town?

Obviously I can’t blame wag for everything, but this is their problem and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get fresh Welsh caught fish & seafood. This glaring problem will not help wag to achieve their target growth of 30%.

 
 

Food & Drink Board

20 Apr

My thanks to a Best of Welsh & Borders producer who rang in yestrerday and gave me an update on the Food and Drink Board – something I’d more or less forgotten about as I’d heard nothing of late about it.  You’d know if I’d been sent anything I’d have posted it. But for those interested check out their website whcih shows minutes of 3 meetings that took place in March, June and September 2015. Interestingly there are no further minutes posted.

We’ve been told that this Board will be the voice of the food and drink industry in Wales, providing direction, encouraging networking and sharing vital information. It was, as I understood, to be run by the industry itself. But in the minutes of the September 2015 meeting, which was the first full Board meeting, wag now state that ‘in time’ the Board may move to a position where is will be independent of government.

At the meeting in September 2015, there were 12 attendees and two apologies given, along with 4 Welsh Government people, with 3 apologies sent, which included the Deputy Food Minister and the Head Of the Food Department). What a shame they’d all got more important things to do than attend this 3rd meeting. A member of the Welsh Government chaired the meeting and explained the agreed process for electing a new Chair/Vice Chair. At the next meeting in December a secret ballot took place with one vote for a candidate for one role, results were to be given in January 2106. If there was a tied vote the final decision would be made by Welsh Government Ministers.  

Well it wasn’t only the ballot that was, because so was the meeting itself as no minutes are yet available!!

We’re now into late April, with December well behind us and my sources say that Andy Richardson from Volac was elected Chair, as well as being Chair of Welsh Dairy Leadership Board. So good luck to him and to Justin Scale from Capestone Organics and David Lloyd Director, Food Industry Centre, Cardiff Metropolitan University who were elected as Vice Chairs. For interest, last year Volac turned over £199 million with Capestone Organics £14.4million. Great news to hear from these two companies and you can only be proud of their growth, but my worry is our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers who often ask me who is fighting for them as micro and small producers on this board.

Anyway back to the last published minutes of the September 2015 meeting and what interested me is that on this Board, which was to be run by the industry, if the vote for Chair had been tied, Welsh Government Ministers would decide. Note, not necessarily the Deputy Food Minister, but Ministers, plural! I still need convincing that this Board is run ‘by’ the industry, rather than industry people working hard to help the Government achieve the targets they have set.

The past minutes also say that a further recruitment exercise will be undertaken to increase the breadth of coverage of the Board and to encourage applications from under represented groups will take place. Well what a great idea, ‘under represented groups’, or perhaps wag means more of their Quangos. Some of my Best Of Welsh & Borders producers have been suggesting that they form a union as the only way they see of wag hearing their voices. Perhaps if they’d done that, wag would have considered them an ‘under represented group’ and they’d be represented on this Board.

With little information I am unsure as to how much work is going to be involved with taking on the role of Chair & Vice Chairs, but as I’ve said, I’m also unhappy that there are few people on this board that really represent small businesses. It’s time then to accept that the Welsh Government is not very interested in small/micro food and drink businesses.

I’d like to say watch this space for an update, but think it’s safest to say if the Food & Drink Board Wales is of interest, you’d best check out their website and see if that helps.

 

 
 

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………………..

 
 

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.