In a hard-hitting letter to environment minister Caroline Spelman (PDF) ( PDF 36 KB), the EFRA Committee warns DEFRA that farmers are still suffering as a result of persistent administrative failures in the SPS scheme at the government’s Rural Payment Agency.
“Many MPs continue to hear harrowing stories of the hardship caused to farmers by late payment from the RPA,” says Anne McIntosh, Chair of the EFRA Committee.
“We note the Agency has met the EU’s target for SPS payments today, but warn there is no room for complacency.
“We are particularly concerned about the impact of RPA failures on the basic welfare of many farmers. We have therefore asked the Department a series of questions about how persistent failures will be resolved.
“We will also continue to press the Government to identify and address challenges for the future. “
Questions levelled in the letter sent by the EFRA Committee cover:
- The RPA’s preparation for CAP reform after 2013.
- The RPA’s executive team (recent recruitment and bonus payments).
- The impact of late payment and the RPA’s handling of hardship cases.
- The future implications of the RPA’s use of a manual payments system to hit payment targets this year.
The EFRA Committee took evidence from Mark Grimshaw, the new Chief Executive at the RPA on 11 May.
Prior to commencing at the RPA in January 2011, Mr Grimshaw was the Managing Director of the Child Support Agency.
The Rural Payments Agency distributes EU funding for single farm payments, amounting to about £1.8 million in 2010, to over 101,000 English farmers.
The RPA met the EU benchmark to pay 95.238% of the 2010 Single Payment Scheme (SPS) fund value by 30 June 2011.
In addition, the RPA had been set two internal targets. The first target, to make payments to 85% of eligible claimants by the end of December 2010, was met with 85.5% of the eligible population paid at that date. The second target, to pay 95% of the total value of eligible payments by the end of March 2011, was not met.