The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has clearly missed its target for issuing 2015 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims, and it is increasingly clear that many payments that have been made are wrong, says the NFU. This is an unnecessary restriction on farm cash flows when incomes are already under pressure, stresses NFU vice-president Guy Smith.
The RPA chief executive told Parliament’s EFRA committee that it would pay at least 92% of all claims by the beginning of April, as well as writing to many outstanding claimants to advise the payment would be issue in the second half of March.
The NFU calculates that 74,700 of the total 87,000 BPS claims have been paid. “Assuming that 2,000 of these might, for various reasons, not be paid then the percentage paid is 87%,” notes Mr Smith. “The lack of progress in getting the last 10,000 payments out is turning into a weekly saga of the RPA failing to deliver against its promises.” The payment window opened on December 1st 2015.
The NFU is critical of the lack of information from the RPA. Everything points to IT system problems, but the Agency and Defra will not elaborate. And the long saga of IT disruption, from the last minute issuing of paper claim forms when the ‘digital only’ online portal proved inadequate, is leading to further problems
“Hundreds of members are telling us they have been significantly underpaid for BPS 2015,” says Mr Smith. “Given the rushed and shaky way the first year of BPS was implemented with the ‘Plan B’ of handwritten forms having to be quickly transcribed by RPA staff, many of them drafted in at the last-minute, it was inevitable that errors would occur.
The Union is demanding the RPA issue part payments to those still without BPS monies, that the RPA explains what is going on and advises how it will ensure the 2016 claims are handled more smoothly.