NFU responds to Efra Committee report on RPA’s delivery of BPS

A number of recommendations in a report by the Efra Select Committee into the Rural Payments Agency’s (RPA) delivery of BPS mirror the NFU’s own concerns on this issue.

The NFU understands why the Committee has recommended an extension of the submission window from May 16 to mid-June. However the NFU’s overriding concern remains that this may significantly compromise the ability of the RPA to pay claimants promptly in early December.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “We welcome the Committee’s continued interest into the administration of CAP within England. The report does paint the all too vivid picture of what has been the sorry tale of BPS in 2015; cash flow problems caused and made worse by delays to payments and the level of timing and financial uncertainty knocking the industry’s confidence. All of this comes at a time when the support payments were needed more than ever.

“The NFU is pleased that MPs see the advancing of payments a key step in helping to avoid the issues seen this year too. This is something the NFU wants to see as part of the payment approach for 2016.

“We do not share the Committee’s views on extending the 2016 application deadline past May 16. The RPA has made it clear that the source of so many concerns around the 2015 claims and 2016 form completion will not be clarified until this summer. An additional period of time now, in our view, will not help resolve these fundamental issues at this time.

“It’s encouraging that the report picks up the inconsistent service given to farmers and says that all farmers should experience prompt payments and good communication. It’s vital the RPA avoids generic communications, vague promises and long waiting times for responses to calls and correspondence. We also welcome the call for RPA to look at their customer service standards. Sadly customer service has been a big casualty with the introduction of BPS, the impact of which has not yet been fully felt. We are looking to RPA to be as pragmatic as possible with the processing of issues arising from poor customer service

“It’s disappointing that the Committee hasn’t covered in much detail the impending challenges of putting right errors found with 2015 payments to date and the resource that will be required to deal with this significant challenge ahead of BPS 2016 payment delivery. This is an area the Committee needs to monitor closely in the coming months alongside the NFU.”

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