Watching the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) fail to get to grips with outstanding problems that exist from the introduction of the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in 2015 is like watching a slow motion car crash.
The problem is that although the majority of farmers have received the correct payments for 2015, there are still a significant number of farmers who have not received the correct payments and in some instances this also means they have not been awarded the correct number of BPS entitlements which will impact on the 2016 claim and beyond.
The problem is that there appears to be no way of speaking to anyone at the RPA with whom one can actually discuss the problem. All one can do is write in to the generic email address explaining the problem and then wait…and wait….
Eventually a letter will arrive re-assessing the claim and in most instances this is probably correct but I have personally experienced one situation where the re-assessment is still very wrong. All I have been told is to email in again and explain the same situation yet again.
The problem is that there is no one to talk to who you can discuss the situation with and there appears to be no way of influencing the speed at which the claim will be processed. This is an increasingly worrying situation because the 2016 payment window will open on December 1st and any problems from 2015 will be carried forward for a second year thereby making things worse.
If this is the case the consequence is that it will become increasingly difficult for farmers who have outstanding issues to get them resolved because understandably the RPA’s resources will become focussed on getting as many of the 2016 payments out as quickly as possible.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith has commented, “The problem is that, although we think they [the RPA] are about to draw a line under BPS 2015 payments, we are not convinced that everyone knows whether they have been paid correctly,” He went on to comment that it needs, “the skills of a forensic investigator and the time of a land agent” to work out whether or not one has been paid correctly.
But as a land agent myself I think the main problem is that even when one has established there is an error there is just no way of discussing the problem with anyone within the RPA who has the skills or knowledge to deal with this issues themselves.
If this results in last year’s errors being compounded in to 2016 and beyond it seems very likely to me that we will be arguing about missing Common Agricultural Policy support payments well beyond our eventual exit from the EU.
James Stephen MRICS FAAV
Rural Practice Chartered Surveyor, Wells
T: 01749 683381