NFU calls for specifics from RPA on 2015 BPS payment errors

The NFU is disappointed to learn from the Rural Payments Agency that up to 9,000 BPS claimants will not be paid by the end of April – a full five months after the opening of the payment window. However, the NFU welcomes the announcement these farmers will, at least, receive a 50 per cent bridging payment by the end of the month.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “The bridging payments announcement that NFU Council heard today is something the NFU has been urging the RPA to do for many months and we welcome this. But this goes hand in hand with overbearing questions – when will the remaining thousands of farmers be paid the full amount and why wasn’t this part payment made before?”

“More widely we still want to know what the problem is with getting payments out and why the RPA failed to meet promises of payment made as recently as March. Our worry is that this is some sort of intrinsic IT problem that the RPA is struggling to fix. If this is the case it may come back to haunt us in the 2016 application year.”

“The RPA is in danger of brushing over its mistakes and not learning the lessons or making the much-needed improvements for this year. This is something that David Cameron himself said was essential in PMQs last week. Ploughing on with 2016 and waving 2015 mistakes goodbye is not good enough for the UK farming sector – we deserve an explanation and a better service for next year.”

“There will likely be thousands of farmers wanting to apply for BPS 2016 but do not want to repeat the error of their ways and exacerbate the problem. Feedback from the RPA, in the form of a claim statement, is much needed by the farmers who RPA Chief Executive Mark Grimshaw is urging to be prompt with their 2016 applications.”

“It was striking and hugely concerning that well over half of the ninety-strong NFU Council felt that they had outstanding problems to sort out before they could put in an application with any confidence of its accuracy. If this is indicative of the situation across the industry then the RPA has a mountain of outstanding issues to sort out and will need the extra resources to do it.”

CLA President Ross Murray said: “Many of the farmers that have still not been paid for work they carried out as long ago as autumn 2014, are in a desperate situation. Given how late this has become, if they can’t be paid in full it is right they receive a bridging payment. We are disappointed that yet again emergency measures have become necessary. In due course there will need to be yet another review into how this situation has come to arise. We advised the RPA leadership to consider a part payment process for complex claims in the autumn of 2015 and it is important to understand why any action was not taken sooner. In the meantime we remain absolutely focused on working with the RPA leadership and the Secretary of State to ensure they are finding solutions to these mounting problems.”

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